Teaching in the operating room: trends in surgical skills transfer in ophthalmology

Anastasia Neufeld, Laura L. Hanson, Jeff Pettey


Cataract surgery is arguably the most commonly performed operation in ophthalmology. Surgical skills transfer from experienced surgeons to resident surgeons is complicated by the fact that the teaching surgeon primarily acts as an observer rather than directly performing the procedure. Therefore, wet lab and simulator training are utilized to reduce the learning curve of the novice surgeons, which establishes tissue awareness, dexterity and muscle memory required to perform each step of the procedure, safely. Access to a wet lab and simulator environment is accomplished by establishing a surgical training curriculum in residency programs. In the operating room, topical anesthesia is a safe alternative for teaching cataract surgery. There are three well-described approaches to teaching individual steps of cataract surgery: forward, “backwards”, and deconstructed step-by-step instruction. Simulator training can be incorporated prior to live patient experience or integrated concurrently with learner presence in the operating room. The trend towards a competency-based instruction model has necessitated appropriate evaluation tools that include Objective Assessment of Skills in Intraocular Surgery (OASIS), Global Rating Assessment of Skills in Intraocular Surgery (GRASIS), and the International Council of Ophthalmology’s Ophthalmology Surgical Competency Assessment Rubrics (ICO-OSCAR). We review the literature on trends in surgical teaching in ophthalmology, with the focus on cataract surgery instruction to the novice surgeon.