General surgery trainees' perceptions regarding their own laparoscopic training remain poorly defined. The objective of this survey was to identify and evaluate learner experiences with laparoscopic procedures in general surgery programs on a national level.
Two hundred eighty-four residents were identified and contacted at English-speaking general surgery programs across Canada. Each was asked to complete a web- or paper-based survey regarding their demographics, experiences with basic and advanced minimally invasive surgery (MIS) procedures, and perceived barriers to training.
Two hundred fifty-two of 284 (89%) surveyed residents responded. Eighty-seven percent of the residents had access to a skills lab that taught MIS techniques; however, standardized MIS curricula were implemented 53% of the time. Eighty percent of residents felt that skills lab training translated to improved performance in the OR. Although 90% of residents felt that they would be comfortable performing basic laparoscopic procedures, only 8% stated they would be comfortable performing advanced procedures at the end of their training. Moreover, 90% of general surgery residents felt that it was the academic surgical department's responsibility to teach both basic and advanced procedures, and 35% of respondents felt their surgical program was meeting this requirement. Half of the residents felt they had limited opportunity to be a primary surgeon because an MIS fellow was present.
There exists a wide disparity between the expectations of residents and their actual experience. The majority of residents are concerned that they will not acquire sufficient laparoscopic skills during their training to perform advanced cases in practice. Additionally, the balance between resident and fellow-level cases needs to be more clearly defined as the majority of respondents identified the presence of a MIS fellow as a negative learning influence. Finally, although most centers had a surgical skills lab, 47% of respondents felt that the curriculum was not standardized and this also needs to be addressed.