This paper examines the issues that arise in the broad area of competence assessment in surgical practice, with particular reference to the objective assessment of technical skill which has historically been the weakest aspect of assessment in surgical training. To facilitate a thorough appraisal of competence, a simple model of surgical practice is advanced, followed by a review of both current and experimental methods of assessing technical skill. The review comprises not only the published literature, but also work (both from the authors' and other groups) that is in progress or under consideration for publication. Significant issues in the implementation of these new technologies, especially the necessary further validation, and the imperative to demonstrate that the process introduced does indeed improve the outcomes are discussed.
- competence assessment
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