Med students ‘losing the dexterity needed for surgery’

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A professor of surgical education at says UK medical students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients, reports BBC News

Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College London, says young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical. “It is important and an increasingly urgent issue,” says Kneebone, who warns medical students might have high academic grades but cannot cut or sew.

“It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case,” says Kneebone.

The report says the professor, who teaches surgery to medical students, says young people need to have a more rounded education, including creative and artistic subjects, where they learn to use their hands.

Kneebone says he has seen a decline in the manual dexterity of students over the past decade – which he says is a problem for surgeons, who need craftsmanship as well as academic knowledge.

“An obvious example is of a surgeon needing some dexterity and skill in sewing or stitching,” he is quoted in the report as saying. “A lot of things are reduced to swiping on a two-dimensional flat screen,” he says, which he argues takes away the experience of handling materials and developing physical skills.

Such skills might once have been gained at school or at home, whether in cutting textiles, measuring ingredients, repairing something that’s broken, learning woodwork or holding an instrument.

Students have become “less competent and less confident” in using their hands, he says. “We have students who have very high exam grades but lack tactile general knowledge,” the professor says in the report.

BBC News report

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