Alleviating Physician Stress May Better Facilitate Learning Process

Researchers from the University of Houston and the Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education found stress could trigger training surgeons to perform just as quickly as more experienced surgeons.

For this study, the researchers developed a non-contact method of measuring stress and the body's response to threats or challenges in 10 experienced and seven novice surgeons. Although it has been long recognized that surgeons in training exhibit stress as they learn to perform surgical procedures, the researchers found, regardless of experience level, surgeons attempt to perform tasks at the same speed.


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They discovered that high stress levels in novices were the likely trigger of fast behavior. When presented with a challenging task, he said, the basic human instinct of survival mode kicked in precipitating action, even if the speed of that action could negatively affect outcomes.

The researchers believe the key is to reduce stress levels in the initial stages of training. Reduction of stress may result in reduction of attempt pace and consequent reduction of errors.

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