Making meaning from sensory cues in the operating room – an important content area of post-graduate surgical learning

PURPOSE: The authors aimed to map and explicate what surgeons perceive they learn in the operating room.

METHOD: The researchers used a grounded theory method in which data were iteratively collected through semi-structured one-to-one interviews over a 24-month period. A four-person data analysis team from differing academic backgrounds quantitatively analyzed the content of the transcripts employing an immersion / crystallization approach.

RESULTS: Participants were 22 UK surgeons, some of whom were in training at the time of the study and some of whom were surgeon trainers. Major themes of learning in the operating room were perceived to be ‘factual knowledge’ ‘motor skills’ ‘sensory semiosis’ ‘adaptive strategies’ ‘team-working and management’ and ‘attitudes and behaviours’. 277 data points (short paragraphs or groups of sentences conveying meaning) were classified under these major themes and sub-themes by the analysis team. A key component of learning in the operating room that emerged from these data was ‘sensory semiosis’, learning to make sense of visual and haptic cues.

DISCUSSION: Whilst the authors found that learning in the operating room was across a wide range of domains ‘sensory semiosis’ was found to be an important theme that has not previously been fully acknowledged or discussed in the surgical literature. The discussion then draws upon the wider literature from the social sciences and cognitive psychology literature to examine how professionals lean to make meaning form ‘signs’ making parallels with other medical specialties.

See Cope, A., Mavroveli, S., Bezemer, J., Hanna, G. & Kneebone, R. (in press). Making meaning from sensory cues in the operating room – an important content area of post-graduate surgical learning. Academic Medicine.

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