Background: This study aimed to assess the acceptability and effectiveness of training second and final-year residents, at the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, a tertiary-level ophthalmic training center in Trujillo, Peru, in phacoemulsification cataract surgery through structured distance surgical mentorship wet lab courses.
Methods: Delivered three five-week distance surgical mentorship wet lab courses, administered through Cybersight, Orbis International’s telemedicine platform. Weekly lectures and demonstrations addressed specific steps in phacoemulsification surgery. Each lecture had two accompanying wet lab assignments, which residents completed and recorded in their institution’s wet lab and uploaded to Cybersight for grading. Competency was assessed through the anonymous grading of pre- and post-training surgical simulation videos, masked as to which videos were recorded before and after training, using a standardized competency rubric adapted from the International Council of Ophthalmology’s Ophthalmology Surgical Competency Assessment Rubric (ICO-OSCAR). Day one best-corrected post-operative visual acuity (BVCA) was assessed in the operative eye on the initial consecutive 4-6 surgeries conducted by the residents. An anonymous satisfaction survey was administered to trainees’ post-course.
Results: In total, 21 second and final-year residents participated in the courses, submitting a total of 210 surgical videos. Trainees’ average competency score (scale of 0-32) increased 6.95 (95%CI [4.28, 9.62], SD=5.01, p<0.0001, two sample t-test) from 19.3 (pre-training, 95%CI [17.2, 21.5], SD=4.04) to 26.3 (post-training, 95%CI [24.2, 28.3], SD=3.93). Among 100 post-training resident surgeries, visual acuity for 92 (92%) was ≥20/60, meeting the World Health Organization’s criterion for good cataract surgical quality.
Conclusions: Structured distance wet lab courses in phacoemulsification resulted in significantly improved cataract surgical skills. This model could be applicable to locations where there are obstacles to traditional in-person wet lab training and can also be effectively deployed to respond to a disruptive event in medical education, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic