Teaching Basic Surgical Skills Using a More Frugal, Near-Peer, and Environmentally Sustainable Way: Mixed Methods Study.
The Royal College of Surgeons Basic Surgical Skills (BSS) course is ubiquitous among UK surgical trainees but is geographically limited and costly. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced training quality. Surveys illustrate reduced logbook completion and increased trainee attrition. Local, peer-led teaching has been shown to be effective at increasing confidence in surgical skills in a cost-effective manner. Qualitative data on trainee well-being, recruitment, and retention are lacking. This study aims to evaluate the impact of a novel program of weekly, lunchtime BSS sessions on both quantitative and qualitative factors. A weekly, lunchtime BSS course was designed to achieve the outcomes of the Royal College of Surgeons BSS course over a 16-week period overlapping with 1 foundation doctor rotation. All health care workers at the study center were eligible to participate. The study was advertised via the weekly, trust-wide information email. Course sessions included knot tying, suturing, abscess incision and drainage, fracture fixation with application of plaster of Paris, joint aspirations and reductions, abdominal wall closure, and basic laparoscopic skills. The hospital canteen sourced unwanted pig skin from the local butcher for suturing sessions and pork belly for abscess and abdominal wall closure sessions. Out-of-date surgical equipment was used. This concurrent, nested, mixed methods study involved descriptive analysis of perceived improvement scores in each surgical skill before and after each session, over 4 iterations of the course (May 2021 to August 2022). After the sessions, students completed a voluntary web-based feedback form scoring presession and postsession confidence levels on a 5-point Likert scale. Qualitative thematic analysis of voluntary semistructured student interview transcripts was also performed to understand the impact of a free-to-attend, local, weekly, near-peer teaching course on perceived well-being, quality of training, and interest in a surgical career. Students consented to the use of feedback and interview data for this study. Ethics approval was requested but deemed not necessary by the study center's ethics committee. There were 64 responses. Confidence was significantly improved from 47% to 73% (95% CI 15%-27%; P<.001; t 13 =5.3117) across all surgical skills over 4 iterations. Among the 7 semistructured interviews, 100% (7/7) of the participants reported improved perceived well-being, value added to training, and positivity toward near-peer teaching and 71% (5/7) preferred local weekly teaching. Interest in a surgical career was unchanged. This course was feasible around clinical workloads, resourced locally at next to no cost, environmentally sustainable, and free to attend. The course offered junior doctors not only a weekly opportunity to learn but also to teach. Peer-led, decentralized surgical education increases confidence and has a positive effect on perceptions about well-being and training. We hope to disseminate this course, leading to reproduction in other centers, refinement, and wide implementation.