Home > Research > Project 5

Emotional states and technical skills performance among Surgical Residents



  • Kevin Lachapelle (McGill U., Theme 2)
  • Reinhard Pekrun (Ludwig-Maximilians U., Theme 2)
  • Susanne P. Lajoie (McGill U., Theme 1)

Research Assistants:

  • Melissa Duffy (McGill U.)


Technical skill is the sine qua non of a competent surgeon and years of training and practice in the high stress arena of the operating room have been the traditional mode of learning.  Fitt’s and Posner (1969) describe three stages to learning a motor skill but there is no mention of the role of emotion on skill acquisition.  Recently, Kneebone (2005) has presented a theoretical framework in which emotional states of the learner are central to motor skill learning along with deliberate practice, expert assistance and contextual learning.

The advent of simulation-based training outside of the operating room using high fidelity surgical models has changed the paradigm of surgical training. Fried (2008,2009) has shown that residents trained on simulators perform better in the operating room than those trained only in the operating room. Simulator trained residents may have had more practice than only operating room trained resident, but is it possible that the emotional states of the simulator trained residents, learning in a less stressful environment than the operating room, were more conducive to learning than the stressed area of the operating room?

We believe that positive emotional states are present among residents training on simulators thus improving learning, and that negative emotional states are present among residents inside the Operating Room thus hindering learning and skills performance.

We expect to define emotional states among surgical trainees based on the training environment (operating room vs simulation-based). This would be the first study of its kind and could be presented at the American College of Surgeons annual meeting and/or published in the American Journal of Surgery. We hope to be able correlate these emotional states with surgical performance. This would be the first of its kind and could be presented at the annual Simulation meetings in the US, Europe, and Canada.