The Impact of Ergonomics on Recruitment to Surgical Fields: A Multi-Institutional Survey Study.J Surg Res. 2019 04; 236:238-246.JS
Awareness of ergonomics in surgery is growing, but whether musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries in surgery influence trainee career choices remains unknown. This study aimed to characterize medical students' MSK pain during surgical rotations and determine whether ergonomics influence student interest in surgical fields.
An online survey was administered to medical students in North Carolina. Students were asked about specialty interest, MSK pain on surgical rotations, and deterrents from surgical fields. Students were exposed to literature about ergonomics in surgery then queried again about relative specialty interest (medical versus surgical). Differences in specialty interest before and after the exposure were compared using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
Of 243 participants, 44.0% were interested in pursuing a surgical specialty. Overall, 75.3% reported MSK pain during their surgical rotation, with the average daily pain score highest during surgery rotations compared to all other clinical rotations. The worst pain was reported in the feet and low back while "standing in the operating room" (81.2%) or "retracting" (59.4%). Among students initially interested in surgery but whose interest changed to a medical specialty during medical school, "physical demands of the field" was a common deterrent (36.4%). After exposure to literature regarding the incidence of MSK injuries in surgery, student interest in surgical fields on a 10-point scale significantly decreased (average -0.5 points; P < 0.01).
High incidence of MSK injury among surgeons may be one factor deterring medical students from surgical careers. Ergonomic interventions may be important both to improve surgeon longevity and maintain the surgical workforce.