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BACKGROUND: Surgical training has been subject to significant upheaval in recent years with an increasingly rigorous assessment regimen for trainees. The assessment of surgical trainers is less well evolved by comparison. Recent proposals from the Royal College of Surgeons of England recommend "professionalising the trainers." However, they do not suggest any accepted or validated methods of trainer assessment, nor do they indicate how these might be implemented and monitored in a real-world training program to determine their effect on trainee outcomes. AIM: To determine what is known about the attributes of successful surgical trainers. METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature using the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses and Cochrane guidelines of the Medline database using specific search criteria. The qualitative analysis involved grouping trainer attributes together into "themes" within 4 "super-themes." Each theme needed to be mentioned by a minimum of 5 studies. RESULTS: After review of the full study texts a total of 14 studies met the inclusion criteria. Thirteen studies involved the views of trainees, whereas only 1 study solely assessed the views of trainers. There was a wide variety of study designs and types of participants. The attribute themes are listed in brackets after each super-theme: "character" (approachability, patience, enthusiasm, encouraging/supportiveness), "procedural" (willingness to let trainee operate, balance between supervision and independence), "teamwork and communication" (sets educational aims and objectives, ability to use appropriate feedback, communication skills, and time availability to train) and "clinical" (capable, good relationships with patients, and the health care team). CONCLUSIONS: This detailed review describes several perceived important themes for the positive attributes of surgical trainers. The identification of these key attributes is only of value if their presence is confirmed by effective and feasible evaluation, and if the possession of such attributes in trainers is proven to have a positive effect on training. In times of reduced training opportunities, exploring the topics raised by this review through future education research is warranted.

Original publication




Journal article


J surg educ

Publication Date





843 - 850


Practice-Based Learning and Improvement, attributes, surgical education, surgical trainers, systematic review, Clinical Competence, Competency-Based Education, Education, Medical, Graduate, Faculty, Medical, Female, General Surgery, Humans, Male, Teaching, United Kingdom