Observational Learning

During surgical training, residents spend much of their time learning complex motor skills required to perform surgical procedures. In addition to spending time physically practicing the skills, residents also spend a significant amount of time observing skills and procedures being performed by other residents and staff surgeons. Research from psychology and the sport sciences teaches us that watching someone else performing a complex skill improves the performance of the observer when performing the same skill. However, the potential benefits of observation for learning surgical skills has not been studied in depth. Furthermore, the effects of learning through observation may be different in a surgical context. Some of these differences may arise from the high-stress environment of the operating room, and/or the field of view being partially hidden during open surgical procedures. By understanding more about observational learning in surgical training, we hope to create educational experiences that maximize the value of clinical encounters during residency.