In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 26, 2014

A Surgical Decathlon

By In the Loop


Think of the word "Olympics," and your mind likely conjures up images of elite athletes competing. At Mayo Clinic, however, there's a different kind of Olympics staged twice a year, and the competitors are first-year surgical residents.

Mayo surgical residents participate in the Summer Surgical Olympics within the first month of their residency program. Similar to a decathlon, these Olympics have 10 events, and each resident gets just 15 minutes to complete each one. The events range from routine (for the residents, not the rest of us) laparoscopic surgery procedures to more complex challenges, such as reacting to a trauma event. Felt and other materials from retail stores are used to simulate body parts. According to David Farley, M.D., Surgery, these materials are inexpensive (costing less than $50 per session), are reusable, and have no foul odors. There even is a Nintendo Wii challenge that sounds fun, but according to past participants, is anything but easy, according to Mayo Clinic's Shields magazine. 

Dr. Farley tells the Rochester Post Bulletin that the “games,” held in the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center (and in simulation centers in Arizona and Florida), are an attempt to compensate for the reduced hours in a resident’s tenure, which are now limited to 80 hours per week.

From an educational standpoint, the games provide baseline information on the residents’ abilities. “The Olympics gives us a sense of where our surgical trainees are in their training, what they know, and what they don’t know,” says Dr. Farley, who created the games back in 2006. When winter arrives and the residents are a bit more seasoned, they compete in the same 10 events in the Winter Surgical Olympics, and the scores are then compared to evaluate the residents’ progress.

Resident Edwin Onkendi, M.B., Ch.B., told the P-B that he's learned from the detailed feedback received from his participation in the Surgical Olympics. "Most of the time, we read how to do a procedure," he says. "I get to assist in the OR, but to get to do it and try to do the whole thing myself on a model helps me see where my skills are."

The Surgical Olympics have attracted attention not just from local media but from other academic venues. Dr. Farley and his colleagues collect data during the Olympics for simulation training research, and they have published papers and have stepped up to the platform at national meetings to present on the Surgical Olympics and the value of simulation training.

We hope you give us some feedback on our skills (or lack thereof) with a comment below and also share this story by using our various social media tools.

Tags: Dr. David Farley, Edwin Onkendi, Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, Medical Education Stories, Resident

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