Perceptions of student-observers in the operating room

Mary A. Palilonis, Terri R. Martin, David Jacobs, Keith S. Gersin, David A. Iannitti, Iain H. McKillop, B. Todd Heniford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Student observation of surgical procedures is standard practice performed at the discretion of the attending surgeon and the participating medical facility. The goal of our study was to evaluate patient, physician, and operating room (OR) staff opinions concerning student observation of surgical procedures at different levels of academic training. Materials and Methods: Following Institutional Review Board approval, patients undergoing elective surgery were consented to participate in the survey. An anonymous online survey was sent to attending surgeons and OR staff. Results: The majority of patients (97), physicians (91), and OR staff (71) believe that OR observational experience is important to medical student training. Patients (92%) and OR staff (97%) more so than physicians (72%) rated OR observational experience as important for nursing student education (P < 0.001). Comparatively, all groups believe this experience is less important for college and high school students (P < 0.01). When asked if patients should be informed preoperatively of student-observer presence during procedures, more patients and OR staff replied affirmatively compared with physicians (P < 0.001). Similarly, patients and OR staff more frequently believed that informed consent for OR student-observers was necessary (P < 0.0001). Conclusion: All groups acknowledged the educational value of student observational experience, although significant disparity was noted relative to academic level and the group responding. Additionally, opinions of the OR staff were more closely aligned with those of patients. Further assessment of the role of informed consent for student-observer OR presence and potential implications is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-201
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • informed consent
  • student observation
  • surgical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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