Teaching Professional Skills in Surgery

Subject MEDS90013 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 8 hours (intensive delivery)
Total Time Commitment:

Students should expect to undertake a minimum of 120 hours research, reading, writing and general study to complete this subject successfully

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Not offered in 2013
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


University of Melbourne Commercial
The University of Melbourne
Level 3, 442 Auburn Road
Hawthorn, Vic 3122 Australia

E: surged@commercial.unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

Professional skills are an essential component of surgical practice. Examples of professional skills include situational awareness, decision-making, communication and teamwork skills. These have have received relatively little attention in medical and surgical curricula compared with other surgical skills and have often not been formally taught but expected to be learned through modelling and experience. This is no longer sufficient or ethical for learning in the workplace.

RACS now specifies a range of competencies expected of surgeons, which include professional, health advocate, communicator, collaborator, manager/leader and scholar/teacher. This subject explores ways in which these competencies can be taught and assessed.

Emphasis will be placed on some of these surgical competencies and the challenges associated with their teaching. Although communication is a core clinical skill, it is often taught in isolation from other clinical skills. We adopt a broad definition of communication – interactions in person or written with patients, their relatives, peers and other health professionals. The influence of technology on communication is considered. The content and educational methods most effective for learning about communication are explored. There is an opportunity to study in depth the role of simulation.

Safe surgical practice depends on many factors of which effective teamwork is paramount. The patient safety movement and drivers from within the profession have raised the profile of structured teaching and learning on teamwork. We draw on experiences from high risk industries and consider their application to promoting effective teamwork in surgical practice.

The overall aims of this subject are:

  • To consider the breath of competencies required for safe surgical practice and the ways in which they are taught
  • To explore content and methods for teaching clinical communication
  • To review research on characteristics of effective teams
  • To consider ways to facilitate the development of teamwork skills during surgical training, critical for patient safety

After completing the subject participants will be able to:

  1. Outline basic interpersonal communication theory
  2. Outline the content of clinical communication programs
  3. Critically review consultation models for surgical practice
  4. Describe educational methods for effective teaching of clinical communication
  5. Discuss the role of simulated patients in supporting the acquisition of clinical communication skills
  6. Outline simulated patient methodologies
  7. Describe principles of effective team work
  8. Outline the content of a teamwork programs
  9. Discuss the role of teamwork and clinical safety
  10. Describe principles of crisis resource management (including situational awareness)
  11. Describe the role of simulation in supporting the development of teamwork skills
  12. Design a learning activity for a session on clinical communication or team working
  13. Reflect on their own teaching practice in professional skills highlighting strengths and areas for development
  • Online activities – (mid semester) Hurdle assessment. In the first example, students review two audio visual recorded scenarios of surgical trainees interacting with patients and colleagues. In the second example, students use the Non-Technical Skills for Surgery (NOTSS) rating form to assess professional skills in the operating room. Students will use validated rating forms to judge communication skills and professionalism.
  • Essay (Design a teaching session/learning activity) 2500 words (mid semester) 50% In this assessment, trainees are expected to apply and extend knowledge and skills learned in earlier subjects in the development of a teaching session or learning activity. The educational intervention must support the development of effective patient-centred or interprofessional communication skills; A choice of scenarios will be provided and will include high level challenges such as error disclosure. Students will be expected to use assessment instruments to measure surgical trainee performance.
  • Essay – 2500 words (end of semester) 50% In this assessment, students are expected to explore issues associated with teaching and learning teamwork in the context of surgical education. Trainees are expected to draw on literature that examines training and assessment of high performance teams.
Prescribed Texts:

Flin R, O’Connor P, Crichton M. (2008) Safety at the Sharp End: A Guide to Non-Technical Skills. Ashgate Publishing Limited: Hampshire

Other materials are provided online.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Successfully integrate technical (e.g. medical / surgical) with other professional skills (e.g. communication, teamwork)
  • Approaches to teaching using simulation models and understanding of the benefits and limitations of these models
  • Study skills related to a range of educational methods
  • Academic reading skills
  • Academic writing
  • Applying theory to practice
  • Reference manager skills
  • Work effectively within a small group
  • Learn independently
Links to further information: http://www.mccp.unimelb.edu.au/surgical-ed

IT requirements:

Participants will require access to the internet with a minimum connection speed of 256Kbps to access course materials and to participate in on-line discussions and presentations forums. Faster connection speeds are preferred. Participants will also need to verify that their internet connection is configured to allow them to view streamed audio and video files. Test files will be made available for students to test their connections.

Participants are expected to have a headset and microphone connected to their computer for participation in on-line activities.

Participants will be expected to have access to the following Microsoft Office products to fully participate:

  • MS Word
  • MS Powerpoint

All online applications will be web-based and no special software is required.

Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Surgical Education
Master of Surgical Education

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