Emotional Regulation in Surgery: Fostering Well-Being, Performance, and Leadership

J Surg Res. 2022 Sep:277:A25-A35. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2022.02.032. Epub 2022 Mar 17.


Emotional regulation is increasingly gaining acceptance as a means to improve well-being, performance, and leadership across high-stakes professions, representing innovation in thinking within the field of surgical education. As one part of a broader cognitive skill set that can be trained and honed, emotional regulation has a strong evidence base in high-stress, high-performance fields. Nevertheless, even as Program Directors and surgical educators have become increasingly aware of this data, with emerging evidence in the surgical education literature supporting efficacy, hurdles to sustainable implementation exist. In this white paper, we present evidence supporting the value of emotional regulation training in surgery and share case studies in order to illustrate practical steps for the development, adaptation, and implementation of emotional regulation curricula in three key developmental contexts: basic cognitive skills training, technical skills acquisition and performance, and preparation for independence. We focus on the practical aspects of each case to elucidate the challenges and opportunities of introducing and adopting a curricular innovation into surgical education. We propose an integrated curriculum consisting of all three applied contexts for emotional regulation skills and advocate for the dissemination of such a longitudinal curriculum on a national level.

Keywords: Cognitive skills training; Emotional regulation; Mental skills training; Performance; Surgical career longevity; Surgical education.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Leadership*