Health Services Insights

Strengthening Your Surgical Hand: Strengths-Based Profiling and Coaching of Surgical Trainees

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Health Services Insights 2012:5 31-43

Original Research

Published on 08 Nov 2012

DOI: 10.4137/HSI.S10408

Further metadata provided in PDF

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Introduction: As scientific and professional disciplines, medicine and surgery have a tendency to focus on deficiencies, namely what trainees do not know or are not good at doing. The philosophy of Positive Psychology and the notion of "Strengths" takes a different stance. It is an inherently positive process, seeing each trainee as an individual bringing a unique set of strengths to every situation. There is clear evidence from the commercial sector regarding improved performance and well-being when focusing on one's strengths. We were therefore keen to investigate its potential role in the global development of trainee surgeons.

Methods: Surgical trainees from Core Training 1 to Specialty Training 8 in one training region of the United Kingdom were invited to voluntarily undertake the online Strengthscope™ assessment tool. The computer-generated report was reviewed by an Occupational Psychologist and trainees were then invited to have a strengths-focused feedback discussion on that report, either face-to-face or via telephone.

Results: Thirty four surgical trainees ranging from CT1 to ST6 completed the tool and 28 undertook the voluntary feedback sessions. Decisiveness, self-improvement, efficiency, emotional control and critical thinking were common strengths identified. Less commonly represented were leading, creativity and developing others. Trainees found that the tool and feedback helped them identify their strengths and embrace them, rather than fitting the surgical mould. It further aided the recognition of strengths in-overdrive and for some trainees it helped explain difficulties they had experienced in previous jobs. It provided insight into individual motivations and character whilst also highlighting how others in the workplace might perceive them. Trainees liked the emphasis on the building up of positive attributes and utilizing innate skills and strengths. The feedback consultation from an accredited coach trained in the Strengthscope™ tool was judged by trainees to be crucial to a full understanding of the report and its potential implications.

Conclusions: Surgical trainees have a wide range of strengths which, if identified and focused upon, could help them to fulfil their greatest potential at work. Strengthscope™ has provided new insights into the range of skills and talents of surgical trainees and has a potential role in providing more advanced educational supervision and mentorship. For these trainees, the assessment and feedback discussion aided their personal and professional development, highlighting where their most significant strengths lay with a view to making their daily working lives more fulfilling and, hopefully, helping them excel.




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