Surgical education in the post-COVID era: an EAES DELPHI-study

Surg Endosc. 2022 Nov 30;1-10. doi: 10.1007/s00464-022-09762-1. Online ahead of print.


Backgrounds: To date, it is unclear what the educational response to the restrictions on minimally invasive surgery imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been, and how MIS-surgeons see the post-pandemic future of surgical education. Using a modified Delphi-methodology, this study aims to assess the effects of COVID on MIS-training and to develop a consensus on the educational response to the pandemic.

Methods: A three-part Delphi study was performed among the membership of the European Association of Endoscopic Surgery (EAES). The first survey aimed to survey participants on the educational response in four educational components: training in the operating room (OR), wet lab and dry lab training, assessment and accreditation, and use of digital resources. The second and third survey aimed to formulate and achieve consensus on statements on, and resources in, response to the pandemic and in post-pandemic MIS surgery.

Results: Over 247 EAES members participated in the three rounds of this Delphi survey. MIS-training decreased by 35.6-55.6%, alternatives were introduced in 14.7-32.2% of respondents, and these alternatives compensated for 32.2-43.2% of missed training. OR-training and assessments were most often affected due to the cancellation of elective cases (80.7%, and 73.8% affected, respectively). Consensus was achieved on 13 statements. Although digital resources were deemed valuable alternatives for OR-training and skills assessments, face-to-face resources were preferred. Videos and hands-on training-wet labs, dry labs, and virtual reality (VR) simulation-were the best appreciated resources.

Conclusions: COVID-19 has severely affected surgical training opportunities for minimally invasive surgery. Face-to-face training remains the preferred training method, although digital and remote training resources are believed to be valuable additions to the training palette. Organizations such as the EAES are encouraged to support surgical educators in implementing these resources. Insights from this Delphi can guide (inter)national governing training bodies and hospitals in shaping surgical resident curricula in post pandemic times.

Keywords: COVID-19; Consensus; Delphi; Education; Laparoscopic surgery; Laparoscopy; Surgery; Training.