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Five Tips for Effective Teaching of Procedural Skills

Matthew Rustici, MD

​​Teaching procedures can be as much art as science. Here are five tips to help make sure you are optimizing your procedural skill teaching.

  1. Ask for a “play-by-play” before you start. Have your learner tell you what they are going to do before you realize they are over their heads. For advanced learners, ask about how they will manage a difficult complication.
  2. Give beginners supportive feedback but give them time to struggle. Learning is most effective when the learner is forced to do it themselves. Avoid "over-instruction" when a beginning learner is getting the hang of things.​​
  3. Give advanced learners challenging hypothetical situations. ​Advanced learners are good at doing routine cases but may struggle with difficult cases. Challenge your advanced learners by discussing difficult hypothetical situations with them so they are more prepared to manage complex cases in the future.
  4. Break the procedure into parts so more learners get experience. Residents and students are getting exposed to far fewer procedures than in the past. Try to break procedures up into small pieces so that multiple learners can have a roll. This means giving the most challenging aspect to the most advanced learner but saving more basic aspects for beginner learners.
  5. Touch, don't talk. Avoid using too much technical or anatomic jargon with beginner learners because it is distracting them from accurately performing the procedure. Use your hands or instruments to demonstrate techniques and show the learner exactly where you want something done.  ​ 

For additional tips on procedural skill teaching, remember that the Academy of Medical Educators offers regular workshops to help personally hone your skills. Click here for more information.​