Fingerprints of Teaching Interactions: Capturing and Quantifying How Supervisor Regulate Autonomy of Residents in the Operating Room

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OBJECTIVE: Supervisors and residents agree that entrusted autonomy is central to learning in the Operating Room (OR), but supervisors and residents hold different opinions about entrustment: residents regularly experience that they receive insufficient autonomy while supervisors feel their guiding is not appreciated as teaching. These opinions are commonly grounded on general experiences and perceptions, instead of real-time supervisors' regulatory behaviors as procedures unfold. To close that gap, we captured and analyzed when and to what level supervisors award or restrain autonomy during procedures. Furthermore, we constructed fingerprints, an instrument to visualize entrustment of autonomy by supervisors in the OR that allows us to reflect on regulation of autonomy and discuss teaching interactions.

DESIGN: All interactions between supervisors and residents were captured by video and transcribed. Subsequently a multistage analysis was performed: (1) the procedure was broken down into 10 steps, (2) for each step, type and frequency of strategies by supervisors to regulate autonomy were scored, (3) the scores for each step were plotted into fingerprints, and (4) fingerprints were analyzed and compared.

SETTING: University Medical Centre Groningen (the Netherlands).

PARTICIPANTS: Six different supervisor-resident dyads.

RESULTS: No fingerprint was alike . timing, frequency, and type of strategy that supervisors used to regulate autonomy varied within and between procedures. Comparing fingerprints revealed that supervisors B and D displayed more overall control over their program-year 5 residents than supervisors C and E over their program-year 4 residents. Furthermore, each supervisor restrained autonomy during steps 4 to 6 but with different intensities.

CONCLUSIONS: Fingerprints show a high definition view on the unique dynamics of real-time autonomy regulation in the OR. One fingerprint functions as a snapshot and serves a purpose in one-off teaching and learning. Multiple snapshots of one resident quantify autonomy development over time, while multiple snapshots of supervisors may capture best teaching practices to feed train-the-trainer programs. (C) 2020 Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of Association of Program Directors in Surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1208
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number4
Early online date23-Dec-2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • entrustment of autonomy
  • teaching in the operating room
  • improving the learning climate
  • quantifying autonomy development

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