Cover: How Should Surgical Residents Be Educated About Patient Safety

How Should Surgical Residents Be Educated About Patient Safety

A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Published in: Journal of Surgical Education Volume 73, Issue 4 (July-August 2016), Pages 660-667. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2016.02.011

Posted on on March 22, 2018

by Luke R. Putnam, Dean H. Pham, Tiffany G. Ostovar-Kermani, Zeinab Alawadi, Jason Michel Etchegaray, Madelene J. Ottosen, Eric J. Thomas, Donald P. Lesslie, Lillian S. Kao, Kevin P. Lally, et al.


The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education mandates patient safety education without specific curricular guidelines. We hypothesized that a dedicated, adjunctive resident safety workshop (SW) led by surgical faculty compared with an online curriculum (OC) for hospital personnel alone would improve residents' patient safety perceptions and behaviors.

Materials and Methods

A pilot randomized controlled trial was performed from 2014 to 2015 within a university-based general surgery residency. Control and intervention groups, stratified by postgraduate year, participated in a hospital-based OC; the intervention group participated in an additional SW. Primary outcomes were perceptions of safety culture, teamwork, and speaking up as per the validated safety attitudes questionnaire (SAQ) at 6 and 12 months postintervention. Secondary outcomes included behavioral scores from blinded surgical faculty using the Oxford NonTechnical Skills scale.


A total of 51 residents were enrolled (control = 25, intervention = 26). SAQ response rates were 100%, 100%, and 76% at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months, respectively. SAQ scores were similar at baseline between groups and did not change significantly at 6 or 12 months, independent of postgraduate year (PGY) level. Overall NonTechnical Skills scores were similar between groups, but senior residents (≥PGY 4) in the OC + SW group scored significantly higher in teamwork, decision-making, and situation awareness (all p < 0.05).


An adjunctive, dedicated resident SW compared with a hospital-based OC alone did not significantly improve overall perceptions of patient safety. However, senior residents participating in the SW demonstrated improved patient safety perceptions and had significantly better intraoperative safety behaviors than senior residents in the OC group. Future curricular enhancements should include PGY-level specific education, iterative reviews, and increased faculty involvement. A larger randomized trial may be warranted.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.