The Unfulfilled Need for Technical Skill Assessments among Academic Cardiothoracic Surgeons

Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2021 Jun 2;S1043-0679(21)00268-9. doi: 10.1053/j.semtcvs.2021.05.016. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Technical skill is a proven predictor of surgical outcomes, yet no platform exists for continual technical skill development following training. We aim to characterize the perceived need for feedback on technical skill among practicing thoracic surgeons.

Methods: Under the Thoracic Education Cooperative Group (TECoG), a panel of cardiothoracic surgeons and trainees developed and distributed an online survey for cardiothoracic surgery faculty in the Thoracic Surgery Directors Association (TSDA) database. The survey solicited demographics, perceived need for constructive feedback, barriers to sharing critiques, and preferences of desired peer reviewers.

Results: 140 surgeons responded to our survey (response rate: 19.6% (140/713)). Most respondents had practiced for greater than 15 years (49.3%, 69/140). 76.4% (107/140) of responders agreed or strongly agreed receiving feedback on their technical skills would help them improve, and 71.5% (100/140) desired individualized skills feedback. While 61.4% (86/140) of surgeons received meaningful technical skill feedback as attending surgeons, this was infrequent, with 63.3% (88/139) last receiving feedback over 12 months prior. Commonly cited barriers to sharing feedback included lack of common practice, time constraints, and hierarchical barriers. 66.2% (92/139) of participants would spend at least 10 minutes providing peer feedback to receive feedback on their own skills, while 45.3% (63/139) would spend greater than 20 minutes.

Conclusions: Attending thoracic surgeons identify an unmet desire for ongoing, constructive feedback on their technical skills following training. Surgeons feel critique fosters improvement and would devote significant time to engaging in peer feedback. A platform for exchange of technical skill feedback is warranted.

Keywords: operative technique; peer feedback; peer review of technical skill; surgical skill; technical skill; technical skill feedback; technical skills; technical skills feedback.