Operative Self-Confidence, Hesitation, and Ability Assessment of Surgical Trainees in Rural Kenya

J Surg Res. 2021 Feb;258:137-144. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.08.057. Epub 2020 Sep 30.


Background: The education of surgical trainees is ideally designed to produce surgeons with both confidence and competence. This involves the development of autonomy in the operating room. Factors associated with autonomy and entrustment have been studied in high-resource settings. In a resource-limited context, where autonomy is solely at the discretion of faculty, and there are fewer external constraints to restrict it, we hypothesized that assessment of a trainee's performance would be dependent upon reported confidence levels of both faculty and trainees in those trainees' abilities.

Materials and methods: At a teaching hospital in rural Kenya, operative experience surveys were administered to eleven general surgery trainees (PGY1-5) and six faculty paired dyads immediately following operative procedures in May 2016 to elicit self-reported assessments of confidence, hesitation, and ability as measured by the Zwisch Scale. We examined factors related to learning and used dyadic structural equation models to understand factors related to the assessment of ability.

Results: There were 107 paired surveys among 136 trainees and 130 faculty evaluations. Faculty scrubbed into 76 (72%) cases. In comparison to trainees, faculty were more likely to give a higher average score for confidence (4.08 versus 3.90; P value: 0.005), a lower score for hesitation (2.67 versus 2.84; P value: 0.001), and a lower score for the ability to perform the operation independently (2.73 versus 3.02; P value: 0.01). Faculty and trainee perceptions of hesitation influenced their ability scores. Trainee hesitation (OR 12.1; 1.2-127.6, P = 0.04) predicted whether trainees reported experiencing learning.

Conclusions: Between trainees and faculty at a teaching program in rural Kenya, assessment scores of confidence, hesitation, and ability differ in value but remain fairly correlated. Hesitation is predictive of ability assessment, as well as self-reported learning opportunities. Focus upon identifying when trainees hesitate to proceed with a case may yield important educational opportunities.

Keywords: Education; Intraoperative performance; Medical; Resident evaluation; Specialties; Surgical.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Developing Countries*
  • Faculty, Medical / psychology*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Surgeons / psychology*