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Understanding novice medical student roles and expectations in a surgical environment to enhance learning experience and outcomes

A 2018/2019 Summer Studentship research project

The perspective of students and teachers will be utilised to produce clinical orientation resources (e.g. videos) to improve student transition into the Year 4 SEGO Module (specifically the surgical attachment) at the University of Otago, Christchurch. The effectiveness of these resources will be explored with the 2019 Year 4 cohort. This may serve as a prototype for future clinical orientation resources for other clinical modules within both the Christchurch campus and wider ALM programme. The resources produced will be submitted for the Australia and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE) Undergraduate Student Prize. Data from this study will form the basis of publications and conference presentations (AMEE and ANZHAPE).

Student: Nikky Fraser
Supervisors: Mr Jeremy Simcock (Senior Lecturer), Assocaite Professor Tim Eglinton (SEGO Course Convenor), Professor Tim Wilkinson (MB ChB Programme Director), Ms Rebecca Pascoe (Year 4 Medical Student), Mr Roshit Bothara (Year 4 Medical Student)
Sponsor: TBC

Project brief


Medical student transition into the clinical environment can be challenging time. Improving confidence of medical students in the clinical environment enhances student experience and learning. The surgical environment is unique and different to what students have experienced in Early Learning in Medicine (Year 2 and 3). Students need to adapt to their roles and expectations, while also making the most of their learning opportunities in a variety of contexts, such as the ward and operating theatre. Students often struggle with the context and content of the surgical environment, attempting to identify where and how they can best learn. Many of the expectations are tacit and only learned by trial and error. Clarifying and making explicit the roles and expectations within this setting may enhance student learning experiences and outcomes.


To explore medical student role and expectations in the undergraduate surgical attachment within the 4th year Sugery, Emergency Medicine, Gastroenterology, Oncology (SEGO) module, with the aim to improve their learning experience and outcomes.

To identify opportunities to improve the transition into clinical learning including the place of clinical orientation resources (e.g. videos).


This project will be a mixed-method study. Year 4 students in their SEGO module at the University of Otago, Christchurch will be surveyed to explore their understanding of their role and expectations in the clinical team, and what factors influence their learning in different clinical environments (e.g. Ward, Operation Theatre, etc.). For those currently undergoing the module, the students will be surveyed during their 5th week of the 8 week attachment, and those whom have already completed the module in 2018 will be surveyed retrospectively. Teaching staff, including the Consultants and Registrars, will also be surveyed to explore their perspective of what the role of students is, their expectations of students in this role as part of their team and what attributes good students have. Both surveys will require both Likert scale and free text responses. The research student will analyse the data collected during the year and from completed Year 4 Surgical Module feedback surveys. The free-text responses will be thematically analysed and validated by a triangulation approach.

Please detail the student researcher’s component of the study:

The research student will:

  • Conduct a literature review to outline roles and expectations of medical students in the clinical surgical environment. Factors affecting learning in the clinical environment will be identified.
  • Survey surgical teachers (consultants and registrars) on the student role in SEGO and their expectations in the clinical environment.
  • Analyse questionnaire data from teachers and students to define medical student role and expectations in the clinical environment. Collate data regarding what students find helpful for their learning in the SEGO module.
  • Use the data collected to produce clinical orientation videos, such as:
    • How to make the most of Acute Day?
    • How to make the most Operating Theatre time?
    • How to contribute in your clinical team?