Surgical residents in New York hospitals are typically evaluated by checklists and hours worked, but a John Hopkins study found that tracking errors could be just as important as monitoring progress. When assessing future orthopedic surgeons, training models focus on volume instead of quality.

The report, published in the June issue of Journal of Surgical Education, looked at possible shortcomings when using different methods for evaluating students. Researchers evaluated how 23 residents accessed the shoulder for surgery from the front, back and side. They used a grading system to assign points when completing items on the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills checklist in order. The Global Rating Scale was also used and gives professors a chance to provide feedback. A pass/fail system was also used, and students who made a severe error failed.

Researchers found that the OSATS and Global Rating Scale offered objective ways to measure performance, but no evaluation method adequately addressed errors. The pass/fail system came close to appropriately highlighting mistakes but gave no specific feedback about mistakes. Tracking errors could allow professors to give feedback so that students have time to improve while practicing on cadavers before operating on living humans. Formal feedback about a student's errors and motor skills are more important now that a cap has been placed on resident work hours. This is intended to prevent fatigue from causing mistakes but also limits learning opportunities.

People expect their surgeons to know what they are doing when operating on someone. A surgical mistake could cause great harm to a patient, and a medical malpractice attorney could be of assistance in seeking appropriate compensation for the losses related to the error.

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