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Why many young surgeons don’t have the dexterity of those who came before them

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Medical school students are less adept at surgery than their predecessors were, according to some med school instructors. Specifically, they’re lacking in fine motor skills and manual dexterity. As one surgeon who trains budding doctors put it, they “don’t have a good feeling about their hands.” 

How childhood hobbies can play a role

A couple of reasons have been postulated for that. One goes back to these med students’ childhoods. While you might think that years of playing video games would improve dexterity, that’s not necessarily the case.

One brain surgeon says his piano lessons as a child helped him develop manual dexterity. He says, “The sooner you begin doing a physical, repetitive task, the more ingrained and instinctive that motor skill becomes.” Hobbies like needlework and woodworking, which require fine motor control, help. However, most of today’s med school students didn’t spend a lot of time as kids knitting or making bird feeders. According to some med school instructors, if people don’t develop these motor skills as children, it’s very difficult to acquire them as adults. 

A change in the law means less hands-on experience

Medical students are getting less real-world experience than those in the past did. A law passed in 2003 restricted the number of hours they could work each week to 80. 

That law no doubt lessened the number of harmful errors by doctors exhausted from working days at a time and decreased burn-out. However, it’s been estimated that these restrictions decreased the amount of hands-on experience by residents by approximately a year. 

Not surprisingly, it’s been found that the more procedures a surgeon performs, the greater the chances are that their surgeries will be successful. Meanwhile, the number of surgical procedures – particularly those involving intricate work under the lens of a microscope – has substantially increased. 

However, some of the new procedures are done using robotics and may require less manual dexterity than traditional surgeries. This is where experience playing games on your phone, TV or laptop may actually come in handy.

Surgical errors can occur for any number of reasons. If you or a loved one suffered harm because of a surgeon’s error, it’s wise to talk with an experienced attorney to determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.