A Novel Expert Coaching Model in Urology, Aimed at Accelerating the Learning Curve in Robotic Prostatectomy.

The surgical residency model assumes that upon completion, a surgeon is ready to practice and grow independently. However, many surgeons fail to improve after reaching proficiency, which in certain instances has correlated with worse clinical outcomes. Coaching addresses this problem and furthers surgeons' education post-residency. Currently, surgical coaching programs focus on medical students and residents, and have been shown to improve residents' and medical students' technical and non-technical abilities. Coaching programs also increase the accuracy of residents, fellows, and attendings in self-assessing their surgical ability. Despite the potential benefits, coaching remains underutilized and poorly studied. We developed an expert-led, face-to-face, video-based surgical coaching program at a tertiary medical center among specialized attending surgeons. Our goal was to evaluate the feasibility of such a program, measure surgeons' attitudes towards internal peer coaching, determine whether surgeons found the sessions valuable and educational, and to subjectively self-assess changes in operative technique.

Surgeons who perform robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomies were chosen and grouped by number of cases completed: junior (<100 cases), intermediate (100-500 cases), and senior (>500 cases). Surgeons were scheduled for 3 1-hour coaching sessions 1-2 months apart (February-October 2019), meeting individually with the coach (PS), an expert Urologic Oncologist with thousands of cases of experience performing radical prostatectomy. He received training on coaching methodology prior to beginning the coaching program. Before each session, surgeons selected 1 of their recent intraoperative videos to review. During sessions, the coach led discussion on topics chosen by the surgeon (i.e. neurovascular bundle dissection, apical dissection, bladder neck); together, they developed goals to achieve before the next session. Subsequent sessions included presentation and discussion of a case occurring subsequent to the prior session. Sessions were coded by discussion topics and analyzed based on level of experience. Surgeons completed a survey evaluating the experience.

All 6 surgeons completed 3 sessions. Five surgeons completed the survey; most respondents evaluated themselves as having improved in desired areas and feeling more confident performing the discussed steps of the operation. Discussed surgical principles varied by experience group; when subjectively quantifying the difficulty of surgical steps, the more difficult steps were discussed by the higher experience groups compared to the junior surgeons. The senior surgeons also focused more on oncologic potency, continence outcomes, and more theory-driven questions while the junior surgeons tended to focus more on anatomic and technique-based questions such as tissue handling and the use of cautery and clips. Overall, the surgeons thought this program provoked critical discussion and subsequently modified their technique, and "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they would seek further sessions.

Surgical coaching at a large medical center is not only feasible but was rated positively by surgeons across all levels of experience. Coaching led to subjective self-improvement and increased self-confidence among most surgeons. Surgeons also felt that this program offered a safe space to acquire new skills and think critically after finishing residency/fellowship. Themes discussed and takeaways from the sessions varied based on surgeon experience level. While further research is needed to more objectively quantify the impact coaching has on surgeon metrics and patient outcomes, the results of this study supports the initial "proof-of-concept" of peer-based surgical coaching and its potential benefits in accelerating the learning curve for surgeons' post-residency.

Journal of surgical education. 2022 Jul 21 [Epub ahead of print]

Jonathan Fainberg, Rand N Wilcox Vanden Berg, Gregory Chesnut, Jonathan A Coleman, Timothy Donahue, Behfar Ehdaie, Alvin C Goh, Vincent P Laudone, Taehyoung Lee, Jin Pyon, Peter T Scardino, Robert C Smith

Department of Urology, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York. Electronic address: ., Department of Urology, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York., Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York., Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York.

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