Gynaecological surgical training in the operating room: an exploratory study

Clasien van der Houwen*, Klarke Boor, Gerard G. M. Essed, Peter M. Boendermaker, Albert A. J. J. A. Scherpbier, Fedde Scheele

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: One of the challenging goals of gynaecological education is preparing trainees for independent practice of surgery. Research, however, on how to acquire surgical skills in the operating room safely, effectively and efficiently is scarce. We performed this study to explore trainers' and trainees' mutual expectations concerning operative training, to identify key aspects for improving learning and teaching in the operating theatre. Study design: We conducted a focus group study in different teaching hospitals in The Netherlands. Three focus groups were composed of gynaecology consultants representing over half of the training hospitals in The Netherlands. Four groups were composed of gynaecology trainees at different stages of training, from university and non-university hospitals and of both sexes. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and entered into qualitative data analysis software and two researchers performed a thematic analysis. Results: Teaching and learning in the operating theatre are complicated by the dynamics of trainer-trainee interaction, which are fraught with potentially conflicting interests. Trainer and trainee have to consider each other's interests, while their primary concern must be patient safety. Trainers want to feel in control and trainees want to be given a free hand within a safe atmosphere. Structuring of the teaching and learning process appears to hold the key to creating positive dynamics between trainer, trainee and their responsibility towards the patient. Structuring can be achieved before, during and after an operation. Before the operation both trainer and trainee can take the initiative to talk about learning objectives, plan of action, and task allocation. During the operation, the trainee can verbalise actions before actually performing them. This makes trainee actions predictable, enhances trainer confidence and thus may increase the trainee's chance of actually performing (a portion of) a procedure. After the operation, both trainer and trainee can initiate an evaluation the trainee's performance. Conclusion: Interaction between trainer and trainee is complicated by their shared responsibility towards the patient. Structured interactions before, during and after operations appear to offer opportunities for improving learning and teaching in the operating theatre.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-95
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Gynaecology surgery
  • Teaching and learning in theatre
  • Qualitative study


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