New model uses athletic, musical coaching techniques to train elite surgeons

They won't inspire standing ovations in concert halls or wild cheers from rabid fans, but a medical school educator thinks that surgeons trained like professional musicians or athletic teams can become better performers in the surgical arena.

The Conducting Elite Performance Training in Medicine model developed at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston incorporates coaching techniques used in elite sports and music into surgical simulation and education, according to an article from the university. The step-by-step model focuses on deliberate practice, including setting a well-defined goal, motivating surgical students to improve, having plenty of opportunities to practice and refining performance through structured feedback.

In this model, the coaching team is "well-rehearsed in the day's training procedure" and provides real-time feedback to correct trainees as needed, according to the article. The trainees just work on surgical techniques instead of practicing three-octave scales or running footwork drills.

Kimberly Brown, M.D., an associate professor of surgery at the UT Medical Branch, teamed with a musical conductor from the Choral Arts Society of the District of Columbia,and a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team, among others, to develop the surgical coaching model. When coachers and learners are actively engaged during simulation-based training, other team members also perform better, Brown said in the article, leading to a "multiplying effect on the team as a whole" that results in exceptional team performance.

The team's findings are published in the journal Surgical Clinics of North America.

Elsewhere, medical educators use tools such as Nintendo Wii video gaming and three-dimensional simulation through the Internet role-playing site Second Life to help surgeons refine how they respond to scenarios they're likely to face on the operating table.

For more:
- here's the article
- watch a short video about the program
preview the study abstract