Exploring the Experiences of Undergraduate Medical Students on Surgical Placement - A Qualitative Study

J Surg Educ. 2024 May;81(5):671-679. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2024.02.005. Epub 2024 Mar 30.


Objective: Multiple elements in the clinical learning environment have been found to influence medical students' learning experiences. A rich area of research, many factors are already known to influence students' experiences of learning which go on to impact later training choices. However, there is a knowledge gap specifically related to undergraduate medical students' experiences of surgical placement. This study aims to explore the lived experiences of medical students in their surgery rotation(s).

Design: A phenomenological study using semistructured interviews was conducted. Transcribed interview recordings were thematically analyzed using an iterative approach.

Setting: Participants were studying in a large medical school in the north of England.

Participants: Fitting with the method, 6 undergraduate medical students, with at least 1 surgery placement took part in the study.

Results: Participants described issues including knowing the details of clinical opportunities, the clinical environment, and the portfolio; having a sense of involvement and previous surgical experiences; teaching and assessments; observation; and interactions. These experiences were also found to influence later career aspirations.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that undergraduate surgical learning experiences can be influenced by various themes: knowing the details of progression, the clinical environment, having a sense of involvement and previous experiences, constructive alignment of teaching and assessment, and professional identity formation. Future studies can explore methods such as personalized learning outcomes to enhance the overall learning experience of medical students.

Keywords: Practice-based learning and improvement; Surgery; clinical learning environment; undergraduate.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • England
  • Female
  • General Surgery* / education
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Students, Medical* / psychology
  • Young Adult