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Providing non-technical skills for surgeons

Can non-technical competencies be learnt in the context of a scientific conference?

In Australia and New Zealand, the learned medical colleges have substantial autonomy to determine standards for the practice of their discipline, and to educate medical specialists in their chosen specialty. Until 1996 most of the curriculum content was directed at the acquisition of medical knowledge and appropriate technical skills. In that year the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada described an initiative to improve patient care.1 The CanMEDS competencies define the competencies needed for medical practice. While the core of this framework remained the medical expert, around this core were a further six competencies: the professional, the scholar, the communicator, the collaborator, the manager and the health advocate. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has further developed these competencies to include technical expertise and judgement and clinical decision making.2 Leadership has been incorporated into management skills.

In Australia and New Zealand, trainee surgeons undertake the Surgical Education and Training (SET) program conducted by the RACS in partnership with specialist surgical societies. Trainees have a clearly defined curriculum…