Practicing surgical tasks on bench models can be arranged in 3 ways: as the entire task, or as individual skills practiced separately in blocked or random order. The issue of the optimal practice schedule for the acquisition of surgical tasks is critical for enhancing training programs.
An orthopedic bone-plating task was practiced as a whole, or in parts in either a random or a blocked order. Learning was assessed on global ratings, checklists, and final product analysis before, immediately after, and an hour after practice.
Checklists, and final product analysis, but not the global ratings showed that practicing the entire task resulted in the most learning, followed by the random practice. Practice of the skills in a blocked order yielded the least amount of learning.
It is recommended that surgical tasks composed of several discrete skills should be practiced as a whole. However, if part practice is necessary, these skills should be arranged in random order to optimize learning.