Workshop Exposes Students to Suturing Experience

Theresa Wyrick, M.D., instructs a student in how to stitch an incision in a pig's foot at a UAMS suturing workshop.

About two dozen UAMS students took part in the workshop organized by the UAMS chapter of the American Medical Women's Association.

Wyrick teaches a suturing technique to two students at the workshop.

Sept. 27, 2013 | First- and second-year UAMS medical students took a key step toward becoming cool and confident third- and fourth-year students in future operating room clinical rotations during a Sept. 9 suturing workshop.

Organized by the university’s chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association, nearly two dozen female medical students received a half-hour of instruction in suturing from Theresa Wyrick, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAMS Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and another half-hour of hands-on practice suturing lacerations and incisions in pigs’ feet.

Traditionally, medical students don’t get intensive hands-on practice with suturing until their third or fourth year of medical school, just before going into an operating room. They do learn an introduction to suturing in one second-year class. It's an experience that Wyrick said can be very nerve wracking.

When the workshop was first offered, the response was so strong — about 60 students asked to participate — that a second workshop also was scheduled.

“Students can learn what the intricacies and details are of suturing the skin for the first time,” Wyrick said. “For many of them, this is the first time they’ve held a suture or needle driver or any of the instruments. It’s a very low-stress setting. It’s not on patients; it’s on pigs’ feet. Everybody wins. In a low-stress environment, they get one-on-one instruction on how to do it properly.”

In her 30-minute, informal lecture, Wyrick gave the students tips on minimizing scar ring. She briefed them on the types of instruments and sutures used, anesthesia, the different types of lacerations and incisions they may encounter, a variety of stitching techniques and methods as well as cleaning the wound and maintaining sterile conditions.

“What people worry about most is the scar,” Wyrick said to the workshop class. “That’s also probably what you’ll worry most about, because you may see them once in the emergency room to repair the laceration and then never see them again.”

Next, was the hands-on experience of suturing.  At small work tables, groups of three and four students each put on surgical gloves and began practicing. Wyrick moved from group to group, guiding them in the use of the instruments and instructing them on different stitching techniques before the students had to leave for their next class.

“I absolutely would have liked to have been able to do this myself as a medical student,” Wyrick said. “I never got to experience anything like this. I told students that when we first started. The value of this is that you are not in the operating room for the first time with an attending, a resident and all of the staff there and being asked to work on suturing when you have never done it before. This way you have training before you’re actually put in that situation.”

Sarah Franklin, a second-year student in the UAMS College of Medicine, said she was grateful to have the early exposure to what it’s like to suture a laceration or incision, even one in a pig foot.

“It does make it a little less frightening knowing that,” Franklin said. “Everything you learn is out of the books the first two years. Learning a practical skill like suturing makes you feel more like an actual doctor than a student. It does make you feel better knowing something more about it going into the third and fourth years.”

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