Am J Surg. 2012 Jan;203(1):63-8. Epub 2011 Nov 16.
War stories: a qualitative analysis of narrative teaching strategies in the operating room.
Hu YY, Peyre SE, Arriaga AF, Roth EM, Corso KA, Greenberg CC.
Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
"War stories" are commonplace in surgical education, yet little is known about their purpose, construct, or use in the education of trainees.
Ten complex operations were videotaped and audiotaped. Narrative stories were analyzed using grounded theory to identify emergent themes in both the types of stories being told and the teaching objectives they illustrated.
Twenty-four stories were identified in 9 of the 10 cases (mean, 2.4/case). They were brief (mean, 58 seconds), illustrative of multiple teaching points (mean, 1.5/story), and appeared throughout the operations. Anchored in personal experience, these stories taught both clinical (eg, operative technique, decision making, error identification) and programmatic (eg, resource management, professionalism) topics.
Narrative stories are used frequently and intuitively by physicians to emphasize a variety of intraoperative teaching points. They socialize trainees in the culture of surgery and may represent an underrecognized approach to teaching the core competencies. More understanding is needed to maximize their potential.