Early Career

Become a highly effective endoscopy teacher, from start to finish


When I first became an attending, I was struck by how difficult it was to teach endoscopy effectively. As a fellow, I saw the various teaching styles of my attendings, and it was easy to pick out the best teachers from the group. But when the roles switched, and suddenly I was the supervising faculty member, it was hard to recall exactly what those teachers were doing to create an optimal learning environment in the endoscopy suite. Not only did I lack a framework on how to teach endoscopy, I also was still building confidence in my own endoscopic skills while feeling the pressure to keep my room running on time. All in all, although I loved the opportunity to teach, I found the experience to be quite stressful.

Hoping to find some guidance, I turned to the literature and was fortunate to find some great pieces on how to teach endoscopy effectively. I learned of cognitive load theory – the idea that short-term or “working memory” can manage only a few pieces of information at a time – and how excess feedback or other external distractions (e.g., pagers) during a procedure can overwhelm a learner and lead to declining performance.1 I also read about the pursuit of “conscious competence,” where an endoscopist can verbalize the steps of a maneuver so that a trainee can remain on the scope and maximize hands-on participation.2

Dr. Navin L. Kumar, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston

Dr. Navin L. Kumar

Motivated to bring these key concepts together in an evidence-based framework, I helped lead a Delphi study of GI fellowship program directors and endoscopy education experts to reach consensus on the best practices of teaching endoscopy.3 After two rounds of surveys, the participants identified 10 essential endoscopy teaching practices, which I will summarize in the next sections. What I found most helpful was how these practices were distributed throughout the endoscopy learning experience. By breaking down the complicated task of teaching endoscopy to three discrete parts – prior to the procedure, during the procedure, and after the procedure – I now had a framework to take back to the endoscopy suite.

Prior to the procedure

With a busy endoscopy schedule and increasing clinical demands, it is tempting to use the time between cases to complete documentation, address patient messages, and review emails. While this is great for efficiency, make sure to also reserve time to set the stage for your fellow. One of the key practices during this phase is to assess your fellow’s current procedural competency. I start open-ended by asking my fellows how they have been doing with colonoscopy and then ask if they are working on a specific skill. With this information, I have a sense of how much hands-on assistance they will need, what realistic goals to set for them (e.g., navigate out of the sigmoid colon for an early learner vs. efficiently and independently completing the entire case for a later learner), and the areas to focus my observation to provide feedback after the procedure.


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