Medical students lack anatomical knowledge

surgery image

Lack of confidence could cause surgeon shortage

Top surgeons have confessed fears about the worrying lack of knowledge about anatomy in modern medical students, as many are given no experience dissecting actual body parts.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) have revealed that for the past two years, Britain has failed to fill all of its training places for new surgeons as candidates did not meet the minimum standards, with a survey of nearly 1,000 medical graduates from 13 universities, citing “poor anatomy teaching at medical school” as a reason for not pursuing a career in surgery.

Surgical teaching has come under fire as hands-on training has been sidelined for less teaching time that uses “pictures, radiological images on computer screens and plastic models” instead of real cadavers. This has spawned concerns in the industry that too much time is being spent on ‘bedside manner skills’ instead of actual medical know-how, leaving students without adequate confidence in their abilities.

Not enough teaching

Vishy Mahadevan, a professor of anatomy who teaches postgraduate surgical trainees at the RCS, told The Independent “Whereas anatomy was once rightly regarded as essential and of crucial importance to the study of medicine, the time allocated to its study in the present day is substantially and worryingly less than in the past. We are seeing an increasing number of qualified doctors in their early surgical training who do not feel confident in their clinical abilities, and they often attribute this to an inadequate understanding of anatomy.”

Ed Fitzgerald, a registrar in general surgery in London and a past president of the Association of Surgeons in Training, said  “A lot of students themselves want cadaveric dissection, but there are a lot of reasons why it’s not being offered. One of the big factors is costs and resources. The cost of having the license, of the facilities, maintaining the labs, and the cadavers themselves, is an expensive option for medical schools. Anatomy is very visual subject, it’s difficult to get your head around and you need the benefit of dissection. You need a good knowledge of anatomy, and if students are perceiving this as a weak spot, they’re going to be less inclined to go down a surgical career path.”