Local professor pioneering GoPro teaching for SA's future surgeons

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  • A recent study led by Stellenbosch University’s Professor Karin Baatjes, assessed the use of GoPro cameras to record surgical procedures for educational purposes
  • The quality of the footage was adequate and the GoPro camera did not interfere with the operation, the study concluded
  • The response to the recordings as supplemental educational material has been favourable among students, according to Baatjes

Opportunities for surgical students to assist during operations are limited as a result of insufficient training time during clinical rotations and a lack of exposure to a variety of procedures.

This is according to Professor Karin Baatjes’ findings published in the journal, The Clinical Teacher earlier this year.

Prof Baatjes, from the division of surgery at Stellenbosch University’s (SU) faculty of medicine and health sciences, devised an innovative solution to the challenges of surgical training during a teaching fellowship at the Sub-Saharan Africa-FAIMER Regional Institute (SAFRI). 

Limited time in surgical training

Baatjes and fellow researchers investigated the suitability of using GoPro cameras (usually used for outdoor sports photography) to record surgical procedures and use them as supplementary surgical educational material. 

The surgical procedure recordings are valuable because the time spent in surgical training is limited, according to Baatjes. 

“In the five years that a surgeon needs to specialise, they only work with the surgical training team for four months. In those four months, you might not see all the operations that there are,” said Baatjes. 

However, in the exam, the student will be tested on everything, she said. 

“So now the student can look at a parotidectomy procedure even though they didn’t see such a patient on the rotation,” said Baatjes. 

Self-learning and revision

The videos recorded by the GoPro cameras are used by students for self-learning and revision, according to Baatjes. 

“The student can look at the videos in their own time. I also did a voiceover for each of the videos, so they can pause the recording at any given time and ask questions,” she said. 

During the voiceovers of the recorded operations, Baatjes said that she tries to give deeper insights during the description of the procedure. 

“I try not to give just a description of the operation because students can get that in many textbooks. I try to give a deeper nuance to make it how I would speak in theatre for real,” said Baatjes. 

Online learning applications 

The surgical procedure recordings were also of use to undergraduate students who were unable to be on campus this year due to Covid-19, Baatjes explained. 

“You cannot show students a mass in the breast but you can show the operation and technique because the patient is anonymised. So we did online tutorials for them,” said Baatjes.

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