Background: Laparoscopic suturing is an advanced skill that is difficult to acquire. Simulator-based skills curricula have been developed that have been shown to transfer to the operating room. Currently available skills curricula need to be optimized. We hypothesized that mastering basic laparoscopic skills first would shorten the learning curve of a more complex laparoscopic task and reduce resource requirements for the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery suturing curriculum. Study Design: Medical students (n = 20) with no previous simulator experience were enrolled in an IRB-approved protocol, pretested on the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery suturing model, and randomized into 2 groups. Group I (n = 10) trained (unsupervised) until proficiency levels were achieved on 5 basic tasks; Group II (n = 10) received no basic training. Both groups then trained (supervised) on the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery suturing model until previously reported proficiency levels were achieved. Two weeks later, they were retested to evaluate their retention scores, training parameters, instruction requirements, and cost between groups using t-test. Results: Baseline characteristics and performance were similar for both groups, and 9 of 10 subjects in each group achieved the proficiency levels. The initial performance on the simulator was better for Group I after basic skills training, and their suturing learning curve was shorter compared with Group II. In addition, Group I required less active instruction. Overall time required to finish the curriculum was similar for both groups; but the Group I training strategy cost less, with a savings of $148 per trainee. Conclusions: Teaching novices basic laparoscopic skills before a more complex laparoscopic task produces substantial cost savings. Additional studies are needed to assess the impact of such integrated curricula on ultimate educational benefit.
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