Evidence That Female Urologists and Urology Trainees Tend to Underrate Surgical Skills on Self-Assessment

J Surg Res. 2020 May 29;254:255-260. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.04.027. Online ahead of print.


Background: Historically low, the proportion of female urology residents now exceeds 25% in recent years. Self-assessment is a widely used tool to track progress in medical education. However, the validity of its results and gender differences may influence interpretation. Simulation of surgical skills is increasingly common in modern residency training and standardizes certain objective tasks and skills. The objective of this study was to identify gender differences in self-assessment of surgeons and trainees when using simulation of surgical skills.

Methods: Medical students, residents, and attending and retired surgeons completed simple interrupted suturing. Assessment was self-rated using previously tested visual analog motion scales. Tasks were video recorded and rated by blinded expert surgeons using identical motion scales. Computer vision motion tracking software was used to objectively analyze the kinematics of surgical tasks.

Results: Proportion of female (n = 17) and male (n = 20) participants did not differ significantly by the level of training, P = 0.76. Five expert surgeons evaluated 84 video segments of simple interrupted suturing tasks (mean 3.0 segments per task per participant). Self-assessment correlated well overall with expert rating for motion economy (Pearson correlation coefficient 0.61, P < 0.001) and motion fluidity (0.55, P = 0.002). Women underrated their performance in accordance with mean individual difference of self-assessment and expert assessment scores (Δ SAS-EAS) for both economy of motion (mean ± SEM -1.1 ± 0.38, P = 0.01) and fluidity of motion (-1.3 ± 0.39, P < 0.01). On the same measures, men tended to rate themselves in accordance with experts (-0.16 ± 0.36, P = 0.63; -0.09 ± 0.41, P = 0.82, respectively). Δ SAS-EAS did not differ significantly on any rating scale across levels of training. Expert ratings did not differ significantly by gender for any domain.

Conclusions: Female surgeons and trainees underrate some technical skills on self-assessment when compared with expert ratings, whereas male surgeon and trainee self-ratings and expert ratings were similar. Further work is needed to determine if these differences are accentuated across increasingly difficult tasks.

Keywords: Gender; Self-assessment; Simulation; Surgical education.