Excessive stress negatively impacts surgical residents’ technical performance. The effect of stress on trainee nontechnical skills, however, is less well studied. Given that nontechnical skills are known to impact clinical performance, the purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between residents’ perceived stress and nontechnical skills during multidisciplinary trauma simulations.
First-year surgery and emergency medicine residents voluntarily participated in this study. Residents participated in 3 trauma simulations across 2 training sessions in randomly assigned teams. Each team’s nontechnical skills were evaluated by faculty using the Trauma Nontechnical Skills scale. The Trauma Nontechnical Skills scale consists of 5 items: leadership, cooperation, communication, assessment, and situation awareness/coping with stress. After each scenario, residents completed the 6-item version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Surgery Task Load Index to detail their perceived stress and workload during scenarios. Linear regressions were run to assess relationships between stress, workload, and nontechnical skills.
Twenty-five residents participated in the first simulation day, and 24 residents participated in the second simulation day. Results from regressions revealed that heightened stress and workload predicted significantly lower nontechnical skills performance during trauma scenarios. In regard to specific aspects of nontechnical skills, residents’ heightened stress and workload predicted statistically significant lower situation awareness and decision-making during trauma scenarios.
Residents’ perceived stress and workload significantly impaired their nontechnical skills during trauma simulations. This finding highlights the need to offer stress management and performance-optimizing mental skills training to trainees to lower their stress and optimize nontechnical skills performance during challenging situations.

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