Does Perceived Resident Operative Autonomy Impact Patient Outcomes?

Abstract [from journal]

Objective: We investigated the association of perceived trainee autonomy with patient clinical outcomes following colorectal surgery.

Design: This was a prospective multi-institutional study that consisted of surgery trainees completing a survey tool immediately after participating in colorectal resections to rate their self-perceived autonomy and case characteristics. Self-perception of autonomy was classified as observer, assistant, surgeon, or teacher. The completed trainee surveys were linked with patient information available through each hospital's internal NSQIP directory. The primary outcome was death and serious morbidity (DSM) and secondary outcome was 30-day readmissions. Separate mixed effects regression models were used to examine the association between perceived trainee autonomy and DSM or 30-day readmissions. Fixed effects were used to control for the effects of the training environment. The models were constructed to adjust for patient and trainee characteristics associated with each outcome independently.

Setting: This study was conducted at 7 general surgery training programs (5 academic medical centers and 2 independent training programs) with general surgery or colorectal surgery services.

Participants: This study included a total of 63 residents and fellows rotating on surgery services that performed colorectal resections at the included 7 general surgery training programs from January until March 2016.

Results: The 63 trainees that participated in this study completed 417 surveys with over a 95% response rate. National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) patient records were available for 67% (n = 273) of completed surveys. The clinical year of the trainees were 6.1% PGY 1/2, 36% Post graduate year (PGY) 3, 40.9% PGY 4/5, and 17% fellows. Residents perceived their participation in the case to be that of an observer in 9.2% of surveys, an assistant in 51.6% of surveys, and the surgeon/teacher in 39.3% of surveys. About 50% of patients were male, 80% were White, the majority had an American Society of Anesthesiologists classification of 3, almost half had prior abdominal surgery, and over 80% of surgeries were elective. The primary operation types performed were laparoscopic (40.3%) and open (35.9%) partial colectomies. The rate of DSM in patients was approximately 24% when trainees perceived their role as observers, 23% when trainees perceived their role as assistants, and 18% when trainees perceived their role as surgeons/teachers. After adjustment for patient, trainee, and training environment, we found that the perceived level of trainee autonomy of a surgeon/teacher was associated with a 4-fold lower rate of DSM (odds ratio: 0.23, confidence of interval: 0.05-0.97, p = 0.045) compared to observers. The rate of readmissions was approximately 20% when trainees perceived their role as observers, 14% when trainees perceived their role as assistants and 9% when trainees perceived their role as surgeons/teachers. After adjustment for patient, trainee, and training environment, we found that the perceived level of trainee autonomy of a surgeon/teacher was significantly associated with a 10-fold lower rate of 30-day readmissions (odds ratio: 0.09, confidence of interval: 0.01-0.70, p = 0.022) compared to observers.

Conclusions: There was an association between increased perceived trainee autonomy and improved patient outcomes, suggesting that when trainees identify with an increased role in the operation, patients may have improved care. Further research is needed to understand this association further.