Education| Volume 171, ISSUE 5, P1215-1223, May 2022

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A multisite study of medical student perspectives on the core surgical clerkship

Published:January 22, 2022DOI:



      The surgical clerkship is the primary surgical learning experience for medical students. This study aims to understand student perspectives on the surgery clerkship both before and after the core surgical rotation.


      Medical students at 4 academic hospitals completed pre and postclerkship surveys that included open-ended questions regarding (1) student learning goals and concerns and (2) how surgical clerkship learning could be enhanced. Thematic analysis was performed, and interrater reliability was calculated.


      Ninety-one percent of students completed both a pre and postclerkship survey (n =162 of 179), generating 320 preclerkship and 270 postclerkship responses. Mean kappa coefficients were 0.83 and 0.82 for pre and postclerkship primary themes, respectively. Thematic analysis identified 5 broad themes: (1) core learning expectations, (2) understanding surgical careers, culture, and work, (3) inhabiting the role of a surgeon, (4) inclusion in the surgical team, and (5) the unique role of the medical student on clinical clerkships. Based on these themes, we propose a learner-centered model of a successful surgical clerkship that satisfies discrete student learning and goals and career objectives while ameliorating the challenges of high-stakes clinical surgical environments such as the operating room.


      Understanding student perspectives on the surgery clerkship, including preclerkship motivations and concerns and postclerkship reflections on surgical learning, revealed potential targets of intervention to improve the surgery clerkship. Future investigation may elucidate whether the proposed model of the elements of a successful surgery clerkship learning facilitates improvement of the surgical learning environment and enhanced surgical learning.
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