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Compendium August 2009 (Vol 31, No 8)

Editorial — Surgical Views

by Elizabeth Hardie, DVM, PhD, DACVS

    It is estimated that when experts attempt to describe the steps in a procedure, they leave out one-fifth of the steps they actually perform. This is because much of what an expert does becomes part of an unconscious routine as he or she repeats a procedure time and time again. Therefore, when it is important to capture all the steps and decision points involved in a complex technical procedure, a formal process called cognitive task analysis is used. During this process, no fewer than three experts must be videotaped and interviewed. The differences between the experts are then reconciled for each step of the procedure.

    In a Compendium article, the steps involved in a procedure are described by the author, who is often a single individual. This is why the peer-review process, in which at least two experts in the relevant field read the article, is critical. These individuals must reconcile the description of the procedure with their own methods and knowledge. The result should be an article that provides the reader with a description of a procedure that contains all the key steps and decision points.

    The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) recently partnered with Compendium to ensure that the articles in the Surgical Views series are reviewed by ACVS diplomates. This partnership has expanded the list of authors and reviewers, ensuring that individuals with surgical experience are sharing accurate and up-to-date information with the journal's readers. It also helps ensure that the descriptions of surgical procedures are complete and understandable.

    There is less chance for unconscious omission when an author chooses to summarize a surgical disease or topic rather than describe a procedure. In this instance, the author may simply be unaware of new developments that have only been presented and described at conferences. However, having ACVS-trained reviewers look over the information increases the likelihood that no key development will be missed.

    The goal of the Surgical Views column is to provide accurate, practical surgical information to practicing veterinarians. With the help of the ACVS, the job has become a lot easier.

    NEXT: News Bites (August 2009)
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