Effect of Rehearsal Modality on Knowledge Retention in Surgical Trainees: A Pilot Study

Eric J. Finnesgard, Johnathon M. Aho, T. K. Pandian, David R. Farley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective The operating room is an exciting learning environment. With growing curriculum limitations and increasing complexity of care, existing education opportunities need to be optimized. Rehearsal has benefits for surgeon performance in the operating room, but its role for enhancing operative learning remains unclear. This pilot study aimed to differentiate the effects of physical rehearsal (PR) and cognitive rehearsal (CR) modalities on surgical trainee technical knowledge retention. Design Participants took part in a 2-day (sequential Fridays), instructed operative workshop performing midline laparotomy, splenectomy, left nephrectomy, and hand-sewn, side-to-side small bowel anastomosis (SBA). Participants were randomized to 10 minutes of either a (PR; n = 5) or (CR; n = 5) activity each day before operating. PR consisted of practicing SBA on a felt bowel model. CR entailed viewing narrated operative footage detailing the steps of SBA. Participants’ technical knowledge of all procedures was assessed at 1 and 12 weeks postworkshop using a 31-question test. Setting Animal operative suites at an academic medical center. Participants A total of 10 general surgery postgraduate year 1 interns participated in the workshop; all completed the study. Participants had similar levels of operative exposure at the time of study participation. Results At 1-week postworkshop, mean assessment scores for CR were higher than PR (Mean ± Standard Deviation) (CR = 24.7 ± 1.6 vs. PR = 21.8 ± 1.7, p = 0.02). After 12 weeks, there was no difference in mean scores (CR = 23.3 ± 2 vs. PR = 21.7 ± 1.8, p = 0.22). Knowledge decay for the 12-week period was similar between groups (CR = −1.4 ± 1.6 vs. PR = −0.1 ± 2.4, p = 0.36). Study participants performed better on SBA-related questions than unrelated questions (laparotomy, splenectomy, and nephrectomy) at 1-week (related = 81.5% ± 11.3 vs. unrelated = 71.9% ± 6.6, p = 0.03) and 12 weeks (related = 81% ± 13.1 vs. unrelated = 68.6% ± 8.8, p = 0.02). Conclusion This pilot data suggests the modality of the rehearsal activity may not significantly effect surgical learners’ technical knowledge retention. Participants did score higher on questions related to the rehearsal topic, indicating a potential supplementary role for rehearsal activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-835
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • knowledge
  • learning
  • rehearsal
  • retention
  • surgery
  • warm-up


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