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Title: Mental imagery and learning: a qualitative study in orthopaedic trauma surgery.
Epworth Authors: Richardson, Martin
Other Authors: Ibrahim, Edward
Nestel, Debra
Keywords: Mental Imagery
Preoperative preparation
Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery
Surgical Skills Training
Preoperative Plan
Teaching Tool
Surgical Procedures Preperation
Actor-Network Theory
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date: Sep-2015
Publisher: Association for the Study of Medical Education
Citation: Med Educ. 2015 Sep;49(9):888-900
Abstract: CONTEXT: Good preparation for surgical procedures has been linked to better performance and enhanced learning in the operating theatre. Mental imagery is increasingly used to enhance performance in competitive sport and there has been recent interest in applying this in surgery. OBJECTIVES: This study aims to identify the mental imagery components of preoperative preparation in orthopaedic trauma surgery and to locate these practices in existing socio-material theory in order to produce a model useful for surgical skills training. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine orthopaedic surgeons. Participants were identified by personal recommendation as regularly performing complex trauma operations to a high standard, and by affiliation to an international instruction course in trauma surgery. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcripts were independently analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: Analysis revealed that surgeons interact intensively with multiple colleagues and materials during their preparatory activities. Such interactions stimulate mental imagery in order to build strategy and rehearse procedures, which, in turn, stimulate preparatory interactions. Participants identified the discussion of a preoperative 'plan' as a key engagement tool for training junior surgeons and as a form of currency by which a trainee may increase his or her participation in a procedure. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative preparation can be thought of as a socio-material ontology requiring a surgeon to negotiate imaginal, verbal and physical interactions with people, materials and his or her own mental imagery. Actor-network theory is useful for making sense of these interactions and for allowing surgeons to interrogate their own preparative processes. We recommend supervisors to use a form of preoperative plan as a teaching tool and to encourage trainees to develop their own preparatory skills. The ability of a trainee to demonstrate sound preparation is an indicator of readiness to perform a procedure.
DOI: 10.1111/medu.12759
PubMed URL:
ISSN: 1365-2923
Journal Title: Medical Education
Type: Journal Article
Affiliated Organisations: Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, UK
HealthPEER/School of Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Type of Clinical Study or Trial: Qualitative Study
Appears in Collections:Clinical Education & Simulation

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