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Survey of surgical training and experience of associate clinicians compared with medical officers to understand task‐shifting in a low‐income country



A workforce crisis exists in global surgery. One solution is task-shifting, the delegation of surgical tasks to non-physician clinicians or associate clinicians (ACs). Although several studies have shown that ACs have similar postoperative outcomes compared with physicians, little is known about their surgical training. This study aimed to characterize the surgical training and experience of ACs compared with medical officers (MOs) in Tanzania.


All surgical care providers in Pwani Region, Tanzania, were surveyed. Participants reported demographic data, years of training, and procedures assisted and performed during training. They answered open-ended questions about training and post-training surgical experience. The median number of training cases for commonly performed procedures was compared by cadre using Wilcoxon rank sum and Student's t tests. The researchers performed modified content analysis of participants' answers to open-ended questions on training needs and experiences.


A total of 21 ACs and 12 MOs participated. ACs reported higher exposure than MOs to similar procedures before their first independent operation (median 40 versus 17 cases respectively; P = 0·031). There was no difference between ACs and MOs in total training surgical volume across common procedures (median 150 versus 171 cases; P = 0·995). Both groups reflected similarly upon their training. Each cadre relied on the other for support and teaching, but noted insufficient specialist supervision during training and independent practice.


ACs report similar training and operative experience compared with their physician colleagues in Tanzania.

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