Operative dictations in surgical trainees: an underutilized educational resource?

Britta Han, Julie Clanahan, Cameron Casson, Arnab Majumder, Bradley Kushner, Jeffrey Blatnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Accurate operative notes are imperative to patient care and are used for communication, billing, quality assurance, and medical-legal conflicts. However, operative note quality often varies and many lack critical details. Unfortunately, no standardized training exists in operative dictations for surgical trainees. This pilot study sought to determine resident ability to dictate a comprehensive operative note and to determine a need for a formal operative dictation curriculum. Methods: Thirty-eight surgical residents between post-graduate years (PGY) one to four participated in a ventral hernia repair simulation. One senior (PGY3/4) resident coached two junior residents (PGY1/2). Residents completed an informal needs assessment regarding operative dictations. Post-simulation, residents completed an operative dictation. Notes were graded using a modified validated rubric. Results: Thirty-five residents completed the needs assessment, and 38 residents submitted an operative note. Eighty-two percent of this group have completed ≤ 25 operative dictations in training and 77% have received minimal feedback on operative dictations. Out of 33 total points, mean overall score was 18.9 ± 5.4 (Junior resident: 17.9 ± 5.4; Senior resident: 20.9 ± 4.8) Total mean scores did not significantly differ between junior and senior residents (p = 0.10). Senior and junior residents scored similarly on the procedural details component (p = 0.29). Senior residents scored higher on relevant patient history and operative note headers (p = 0.04). Conclusion: Standard surgical training may not provide enough teaching and feedback to residents on operative note dictations. A formal residency training curriculum may bolster trainee ability to learn the components of an effective operative note.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8846-8852
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Operative dictation education
  • Operative dictations
  • Operative notes
  • Operative reports


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