Surgeons in New Mexico hospitals go through years of residency training in which their skills are constantly assessed. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have completed a small study meant to refine testing systems. After evaluating two forms of assessment, the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills and Global Rating Scale, they concluded that error tracking needed to be improved.

A professor of orthopaedic surgery who co-authored the report said that training models mostly measured the volume of successfully completed surgical cases. Upon completing a certain volume of cases, a surgical resident can achieve mastery, but the assessment does not fully measure skill. Formal feedback about technical skill and outright errors tends to be lacking, she added.

Her research team set out to identify failings within the OSATS checklist that assesses surgical motor skills. After evaluating the checklist and other common tests, the researchers determined that the assessments did not directly record surgical mistakes. When surgical residents viewed their scores, they did not get precise information about what they had done wrong. The professor noted that the nature of the testing could allow mistakes to perpetuate. The researchers recommended expanding training checklists to include more safety steps that would require locating important structures during a surgery.

Physician errors can cause great harm, resulting in worsened conditions and the need for additional and expensive medical care and treatment. Not all errors constitute medical malpractice, however, and an attorney representing a patient will review hospital records and consult with medical experts to see whether there was a failure to exhibit the requisite standard of care.