An interesting article titled “Should Patients Be Told of Resident Role in Their Surgery?” appears in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery written by James R. Hupp (2015, vol., 73, pp. 2071-2073). The article discusses how early July is the beginning of a new academic year in most hospital-based medical and dental residency programs. During this time many new doctors obtain clinical education. Hospital based dental residency programs often involved a lot of surgical procedures. The article questions if patients should be told of the residents potential role (and lack of experience) in their own surgery.
The saying goes that one should try to avoid going to the emergency room or have surgery the first week of July or even all of July. The common thought is that the large amount of new trainees increases the chances of patient problems. In actuality, most first-year residents are given limited or no surgical responsibilities in the first few months of training.
The author states
“Most of us would want to know who will be in charge of our procedure and what role residents will play. Should this information always be shared with our patients? This is where informing the patient can enter a gray area.”
Of course if one goes to a teaching hospital they may expect residents to be involved in their care. But the question becomes how much are they involved. The author seems to take the position that the attending surgeon should communicate to the patient and family that the resident will be involved in a surgery if this is indeed the case. The attending surgeon can also share information regarding the training the resident has received and the progression of steps.
Of times a resident will rotate to a private practice. So information sharing and disclosure would need to occur there as well.
The author states
“The time may have come in OMS when the veil of how surgeons are actually trained is lifted. Our academicians are producing competent surgeons while delivering excellent care. It’s time we let patients know how this occurs and how the patients’ help makes it possible.”
Of course it is necessary for many patients and their families to agree to allow residents to continue to be involved in their surgeons so the next generation of surgeons can be successfully trained.