Distortions in the Balance Between Teaching and Efficiency in the Operating Room

Published:November 16, 2022DOI:



      The balance between teaching and operative efficiency (i.e., continuing operative case progression) is difficult for even the most experienced master surgeon educators. The purpose of this study was to explore influencing factors behind attending surgeons’ decisions to break the balance between operative efficiency and teaching in the operating room.


      Semistructured interviews were conducted with surgeons across the United States via Web-based video conferencing. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Qualitative analysis using the framework method was utilized, and emergent themes were identified.


      Twenty-three attending surgeons from 8 academic institutions and 11 surgical specialties completed interviews (14 men and 9 women). Attending surgeons consider a variety of factors associated with their dual roles (surgeon versus teacher) when balancing operative efficiency and providing appropriate independence for residents with oversight to promote autonomy. These were divided into surgeon-role-related factors (patient safety, financial factors, scheduling factors, preservation of faculty reputation for efficiency, and mode of operation) as well as teacher-role-related factors (preparation, level, and technical skill of the resident). These factors then informed attending surgeons’ determinations about how the case was progressing, which prompted them to intervene and reduce resident autonomy or allow the resident to continue.


      Surgeons consider numerous factors when deciding how to balance resident teaching and autonomy while preserving operative efficiency. These findings provide helpful insights for surgical departments to consider inclusion in faculty-development programs, resident education, and systematic improvements.


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