Teaching surgical skills in a resource-limited setting: Comparing massed versus distributed practice in an ultrasound-guided breast biopsy simulator

  • Robert Munyaneza
  • Allison N. Martin
  • Robert Riviello
  • Egide Abahuje
  • Shilpa S. Murthy
  • Faustin Ntirenganya
Keywords: surgical simulation, resource-limited setting, global surgery


Background: Teaching surgical skills in the simulation lab has increased markedly compared to teaching only in the operating room. Although many studies have been performed investigating the optimal teaching methodology for skills acquisition, there is no consensus on the best method. Massed and distributed practices are important methods in teaching procedural skills. Considering the limited human and logistical resources in low and middle-income settings, it is valuable to understand the optimal methodology for learning and acquiring surgical skills. 

Methods: Thirty-two core needle biopsy-naïve first-year residents and final year medical students rotating in general surgery were enrolled in and completed the study at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, a tertiary, teaching and referral hospital in Kigali, Rwanda. They were assigned to a “massed” group (i.e., one time, 3-hour practice) or “distributed” group (i.e., 1-hour practice per week for 3 weeks). Trainees were taught ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy on a high-fidelity breast simulator. All participants completed pre- and post-tests and an evaluation of skill retention was performed one month after completion of the training. Analysis of performance was completed, and p-value ≤ 0.05 was considered statistically significant. 

Results: There was no difference between performance on the pretest (p=0.985) and the posttest (p=0.680). Both groups demonstrated improvement after implementation of the simulation training when comparing pretest and posttest results (p<0.001); there were no differences in the evaluation of skills retention after one month after the training between the two groups (p=0.273). 

Conclusions: The results of this study demonstrate that both groups have improved significantly their knowledge and skills. Trainees have similar retention of skills in ultrasound guided core needle biopsy on a breast simulator whether trained under a massed or distributed practice schedule. Both methods may be considered in our setting for teaching surgical skills. 

Keywords: surgical simulation; resource-limited setting; global surgery 


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2073-9990