Teaching Professionalism in Surgery

Subject MEDS90013 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

February, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 08-Feb-2016 to 06-May-2016
Assessment Period End 27-May-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 25-Feb-2016
Census Date 04-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 22-Apr-2016

April, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 04-Apr-2016 to 03-Jun-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 15-Apr-2016
Census Date 22-Apr-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 27-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 8 hours (intensive delivery)
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours per 12.5 credit point subject.


To enrol in this subject, you must be admitted in GC-SURGED, GD-SURGED or MC-SURGED. This subject is not available for students admitted in any other courses.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Commonwealth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this course are articulated in the Course Overview, Objectives 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 course are encouraged to discuss this matter with the Student Equity and Disability Support Team: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Prof Christopher Christophi


School of Melbourne Custom Programs

Currently enrolled and future students:

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:

    • Identify key professionalism issues in surgical practice
    • Develop strategies to address development of professionalism in surgical training
    • Identify issues that impact on professionalism and ways to support its development
    • Expand the impact of role models on individual, group and organisational behaviour
    • Outline training content and strategies for specific elements of professionalism, including person centred communication and teamwork.
    • Reflect on their own teaching practice in professional skills highlighting strengths and areas for development.
Learning Outcomes:

After completing the subject participants should be able to:

  1. Discuss professionalism in the context of surgical practice
  2. Reflect on contemporary practices in teaching and learning about professionalism in medical and surgical education
  3. Identify lapses of professionalism in surgical practice
  4. Design educational activities to address lapses in professionalism
  5. Outline basic interpersonal communication theory
  6. Describe principles of effective team work
  7. Reflect on their own teaching practice in professionalism 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.commercial.unimelb.edu.au/gdsurgicaleducation/

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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