PURPOSE: Hand assisted laparoscopy (HAL) has recently been accepted as a safe alternative for nephrectomy. HAL courses have been offered at several institutions to train novice laparoscopic surgeons in this minimally invasive surgical procedure. Mentoring by a course instructor or an experienced laparoscopist provides assistance to surgeons with their initial operation. However, to our knowledge the impact of mentoring on the clinical practice of HAL is not known. Therefore, we evaluated the clinical practice patterns of urologists following a postgraduate HAL course, comparing course graduates who underwent subsequent mentoring with those who were not mentored. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 71 urologists attended a postgraduate training course in HAL at our institution between March 2002 and October 2002. Graduates were given the opportunity for one of the instructors to travel to their home institution and mentor them during their initial case(s). Followup surveys were mailed to the graduates in March 2003 to evaluate their practice patterns. Responses from returned surveys were entered into a dedicated database and data analysis was performed. RESULTS: Of the 71 surveys mailed 56 were returned (79%). The majority of respondents (91%) described themselves as community based general urologists. Respondents were categorized into 1 of 2 groups, namely group 1-those who had mentoring by a course instructor (23.2%) or another experienced laparoscopist (30.4%) and group 2-those who were not mentored (46.4%). The majority of group 1 respondents (93%) reported that they were still performing laparoscopic procedures at 6 months of followup. However, only 44% of the surgeons in group 2 were performing laparoscopy at 6 months. The majority of surgeons in group 1 (72%) reported that their laparoscopic experience had been sufficient to maintain their expertise compared to only 42% in group 2. CONCLUSIONS: Mentoring provides a useful adjunct to postgraduate urological training and the integration of laparoscopic techniques into the community based practice of urology.
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