Objective: In surgical education, the areas of focus and evaluation are skewed toward technical skill and operative knowledge; less emphasized is familiarity with the patient's medical history. The purposes of this study were to characterize how surgical trainees prepare for cases and to determine the comprehensiveness of their preparation. Design: A 27-question survey was created through a web-based software program and distributed to all resident physicians and fellows in the Departments of Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Otolaryngology at our institution. Survey responses were collected anonymously and analyzed. Institutional review board exemption was obtained. Setting: This study was performed at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, at an institutional hospital setting. Participants: The survey was distributed to current surgical trainees at Washington University in St. Louis in the Departments of Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Otolaryngology. Further, 130 of 169 surgical residents and fellows completed the survey. Results: Most respondents (96%) taught themselves case preparation. Only 57% of respondents reviewed the patients medical record before every surgery. Although most respondents (83%) felt they were prepared or very prepared from a patient-specific standpoint, only 24% felt that their handoff of a patient to on-call colleagues was comprehensive enough to include all pertinent aspects of a patient's history and expected perioperative course. From a technical perspective, most residents (63%) felt they were prepared or very prepared, and this level of comfort increased with postgraduate year; 76% of respondents would not feel comfortable telling their attending they were not adequately prepared. Conclusions: Although most trainees feel prepared or very prepared for cases from a patient-specific regard, only half review the patient's medical record before every surgery. Furthermore, almost all trainees have taught themselves how to prepare for surgery. This represents a critical gap in residency education and an opportunity to improve patient safety and quality of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-408
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Medical Knowledge
  • Patient Care
  • case preparation
  • residency training
  • surgical education
  • surgical training


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