Overcoming the Impact of COVID-19 on Surgical Mentorship: A Scoping Review of Long-distance Mentorship in Surgery

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Journal of Surgical Education


Background: Mentorship in the surgical field has been increasingly recognized as a crucial component of career success. Distance mentorship models may be utilized to overcome geographic limitations, increase mentorship access, and strengthen mentoring relationships in surgery. Objective: This review aimed to identify the scope of literature on distance mentoring in surgery, the range of its application, its effectiveness, and any gaps in the literature that should be addressed in order to enhance mentorship in the surgical field. Design: A comprehensive PubMed review was performed in January 2021 on distance mentorship of students, trainees, and surgeons in the surgical field. Reviews, replies, and non-English articles were excluded. Data was extracted regarding publication year, author's country, specialty, subjects, aim of mentorship model, and efficacy. Results: 134 total studies met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Most studies were published in 2020, written by authors in the United States, from general surgery, and featured an expert surgeon paired with a more junior fully trained surgeon. In all, 93.3% of studies utilized distance mentorship to enhance surgical skill through telementoring and only 4.5% were focused on mentorship to enhance careers through professional development. The remaining studies utilized distance mentorship models to increase surgical research (0.7%) and clinical knowledge (1.5%). Conclusion: The results of this review suggest successful implementation of distance mentoring in surgery through telementoring, but a lack of professionally aimed distance mentorship programs. Amidst COVID-19, distance mentorship is particularly important because of decreased face-to-face opportunity. Future studies in the surgical field should investigate distance mentoring as a means of increasing mentorship for professional development.

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