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Surgical learning and guidance on operative risks and potential errors

Minna Ruoranen (Department of Educational Services, Central Finland Health Care District, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Teuvo Antikainen (Department of Educational Services, Central Finland Health Care District, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Anneli Eteläpelto (Department of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




Within the framework of learning from errors, this study focused on how operative risks and potential errors are addressed in guidance to surgical residents during authentic surgical operations. The purpose of this paper is to improve patient safety and to diminish medical complications resulting from possible operating errors. Further in the process of the optimal contexts for instruction aimed at preventing risks and errors in the practical hospital environment was evaluated.


The five authentic surgical operations were analyzed, all of which were organized as training sessions for surgical residents. The data (collected via video-recoding) were analyzed by a consultant surgeon and an education expert working together.


The results showed that the risks and potential errors in the surgical operations were rarely addressed in guidance during operations. The guidance provided mostly concerned technical issues, such as instrument handling, and exploration of critical anatomical structures. There was little guidance focusing on situation-based risks and potential errors, such as unexpected procedural challenges, teamwork and practical decision-making. The findings showed that optimal context of learning about risks and potential errors of surgical operation are not always the authentic operation context.


The study was conducted in an authentic surgical operation-cum-training context. The originality of the study derives from its focus on guidance related to risk and error prevention in surgical workplace learning. The findings can be used to create a meaningful learning environment – including powerful guidance – for practice-based surgical learning, maximally addressing patient safety, but giving possibilities also for other training options.



Ruoranen, M., Antikainen, T. and Eteläpelto, A. (2017), "Surgical learning and guidance on operative risks and potential errors", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 326-342.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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