BACKGROUND: Sex parity of medical students has increased to the degree that approximately 50 % of medical students are women. Orthopedic and trauma surgery, however, has not managed to keep up with this trend and women are still grossly underrepresented.
OBJECTIVES: Description of an innovative longitudinal gender-based surgical and clinical skills training course.
METHODS: An elective 5-day modular skills course is offered for third to fifth year medical students. Module 1 aims at teaching basic surgical and communication skills involving local and regional anesthesia, initial experience with arthroscopy, fracture fixation, emergency measures as well as communication skills training using standardized patients. The subsequent modules cover surgical knowledge and skills of increasing complexity. The main goals are to increase the interest in orthopedic trauma surgery and to reduce concerns regarding discrimination and gender-related issues. Learning outcomes are assessed using a 6-item multiple choice questionnaire (MCQ) and a 3-stage objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) regarding induction of anesthesia, arthroscopy simulation and communication skills.
RESULTS: A total of 52 second year medical students (39 females, 13 males) completed module I. There were no differences between men and women with regard to the MCQ and anesthesia and communication skills; however, male students scored significantly higher in the arthroscopy test. All students rated the course as being highly effective in terms of acquisition of knowledge and skills. Almost all participants would recommend the course to fellow students and 70 % of participants stated they would participate in the advanced courses. Female participants in particular reported a marked increase in interest in orthopedic trauma surgery and less concerns regarding discrimination and gender-related issues.
CONCLUSION: The effectiveness of the approach will have to be proven by further evaluation, especially with respect to assessment of career development and application rates of participants. Adaptation of environmental and working conditions to suit women's needs seem to play an important role in promoting new surgery residents.