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Hanging up the surgical cap: Assessing the competence of aging surgeons

Authors
  • Frazer, Abigail
  • Tanzer, Michael
Type
Published Article
Journal
World Journal of Orthopedics
Publisher
Baishideng Publishing Group Co (World Journal of Orthopedics)
Publication Date
Apr 18, 2021
Volume
12
Issue
4
Pages
234–245
Identifiers
DOI: 10.5312/wjo.v12.i4.234
PMID: 33959487
PMCID: PMC8082508
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Systematic Reviews
License
Unknown

Abstract

BACKGROUND As the average age of surgeons continues to rise, determining when a surgeon should retire is an important public safety concern. AIM To investigate strategies used to determine competency in the industrial workplace that could be transferrable in the assessment of aging surgeons and to identify existing competency assessments of practicing surgeons. METHODS We searched websites describing non-medical professions within the United States where cognitive and physical competency are necessary for public safety. The mandatory age and certification process, including cognitive and physical requirements, were reported for each profession. Methods for determining surgical competency currently in use, and those existing in the literature, were also identified. RESULTS Four non-medical professions requiring mental and physical aptitude that involve public safety and have mandatory testing and/or retirement were identified: Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, firefighters, and United States State Judges. Nine late career practitioner policies designed to evaluate the ageing physician, including surgeons, were described. Six of these policies included subjective performance testing, 4 using peer assessment and 2 using dexterity testing. Six objective testing methods for evaluation of surgeon technical skill were identified in the literature. All were validated for surgical trainees. Only Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) was capable of distinguishing between surgeons of different skill level and showing a relationship between skill level and post-operative outcomes. CONCLUSION A surgeon should not be forced to hang up his/her surgical cap at a predetermined age, but should be able to practice for as long as his/her surgical skills are objectively maintained at the appropriate level of competency. The strategy of using skill-based simulations in evaluating non-medical professionals can be similarly used as part of the assessment of the ageing surgeons’ surgical competency, showing who may require remediation or retirement.

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