Understanding and Taking Control of Surgical Learning Curves.

Abstract

As surgical techniques continue to evolve, surgeons will have to integrate new skills into their practice. A learning curve is associated with the integration of any new procedure; therefore, it is important for surgeons who are incorporating a new technique into their practice to understand what the reported learning curve might mean for them and their patients. A learning curve should not be perceived as negative because it can indicate progress; however, surgeons need to understand how to optimize the learning curve to ensure progress with minimal patient risk. It is essential for surgeons who are implementing new procedures or skills to define potential learning curves, examine how a reported learning curve may relate to an individual surgeon's in-practice learning and performance, and suggest methods in which an individual surgeon can modify his or her specific learning curve in order to optimize surgical outcomes and patient safety. A defined personal learning contract may be a practical method for surgeons to proactively manage their individual learning curve and provide evidence of their efforts to safely improve surgical practice.

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