“We believe the new standards will provide appropriate opportunity for first-year otolaryngology residents to develop non-operative skills, will enhance their training in surgical skills specific to otolaryngology, and will allow greater flexibility in later years of resident training,” said John R. Potts, III, MD, the senior vice president for surgical accreditation for the ACGME, in a released statement. Besides shifting greater responsibility for basic surgical training to the otolaryngology program, the changes will also give residents “earlier exposure to otolaryngology, thereby increasing flexibility later in resident training,” said Dr. Potts.
These are all welcome changes, because the general consensus has been that first-year otolaryngology residents weren’t learning the fundamental surgical skills, said Randal S. Weber, MD, professor and chair of the department of head and neck surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “When they came to otolaryngology and the head and neck service, they often didn’t have the skills needed to progress more rapidly in skill acquisition,” he said. “This change will give residents a more focused education to prepare for otolaryngology. The expectation is that, for the first-year resident, the necessary basic surgical skills will be taught to them and [will] better prepare them for the ensuing years of training.”
Education Follows Profession’s Evolution
The modifications reflect changes both in medical education and in practice, noted Dr. Weber. “We talk about the way things used to be: Many years ago in my training, we used to do two years of general surgery and three or more years of otolaryngology,” he said. “There was a lot of time spent in the operating room, where the fundamental educational experience was in general surgery, and residents learned surgical skills such as how to tie blood vessels, surgical anatomy, tissue handling, and so on.”