The impact of COVID-19 on surgical training: a systematic review

C. Hope (Lead / Corresponding author), J.-J. Reilly, G. Griffiths, J. Lund, D. Humes

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    76 Citations (Scopus)
    98 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has caused global disruption to health care. Non-urgent elective surgical cases have been cancelled, outpatient clinics have reduced and there has been a reduction in the number of patients presenting as an emergency. These factors will drastically affect the training opportunities of surgical trainees. The aim of this systematic review is to describe the impact of COVID-19 on surgical training globally.

    Methods: The review was performed in line with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and registered with the Open Science Framework (OSF). Medline, EMBASE, PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched.

    Results: The searches identified 499 articles, 29 of which were included in the review. This contained data from more than 20 countries with 5260 trainees and 339 programme directors. Redeployment to non-surgical roles varied across studies from 6% to 35.1%. According to all of the studies, operative experience has been reduced. Knowledge learning had been switched to online platforms across 17 of the studies and 7 reported trainees had increased time to devote to educational/academic activities. All of the studies reporting on mental health report negative associations with increased stress, ranging from 54.9% to 91.6% of trainees.

    Conclusions: The impact of COVID-19 on surgical trainees has been experienced globally and across all specialities. Negative effects are not limited to operative and clinical experience, but also the mental health and wellbeing of trainees. Delivery of surgical training will need to move away from traditional models of learning to ensure trainees are competent and well supported.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)505-520
    Number of pages16
    JournalTechniques in Coloproctology
    Early online date28 Jan 2021
    Publication statusPublished - May 2021


    • Surgery
    • Medical education
    • COVID-19
    • Coronavirus 2019
    • Surgical training

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Gastroenterology
    • Surgery


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