The New Gastroenterologist

Fellowship procedure logs: A word of advice for fellows and a call to action for fellowship programs


 

As a GI fellow, I never would have imagined I would be writing an article on GI fellowship procedure logs. At the time, in my naiveté, I looked at the procedure log as a necessary evil and part of the “red tape” imposed on fellowship programs by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). While the importance of keeping a log was highlighted and enforced by my program, the large majority of the recommended numbers were easily achievable. As a result, even my sporadic tracking of completed procedures was sufficient to meet the requirements. My poor compliance wasn’t because I was lazy or careless, but rather because of the absence of a formal system, which resulted in homegrown methods that were highly inaccurate. I wasn’t alone in my follies. As I discussed this issue with fellows across the nation, I learned that these sentiments were universally shared. It seemed that everyone had come up with their own unique way of keeping a log – from Word and Excel documents, to a binder of patient stickers, to a daily folded sheet of paper with scribbled technical notes – all of which were an inconvenience to trainees already stretched thin. However, when the time came for employee credentialing, I came to realize the importance of keeping an accurate record. This once-neglected document would become the ultimate record of my capabilities for independent practice. The pitfalls and shortcomings of how we currently log procedures is why it was the first thing I worked on improving once I was an academic faculty member. There had to be a better way!

Dr. Houman Rezaizadeh, UConn Health

Dr. Houman Rezaizadeh

I started by reviewing what ACGME actually mandates trainees in GI to track, and to my surprise, they no longer set minimum procedure requirements, but rather competencies. The current requirements state that “Fellows must demonstrate competence in performance of ... procedures”1 and specifically state that competence should “not be based solely on a minimum number of procedures performed.” So, where does the need for a procedure log and minimum numbers come from? Your fellowship programs’ review committee. Programs recognize that, in order to approve requests for independent practice privileges, they need to substantiate the competency of the fellow, which ultimately is best evidenced through procedure logs. Therefore, the committee sets the minimum number of cases they believe is necessary for trainees to practice safely and independently.2 Our program leadership at UConn Health in Farmington, Conn., annually assesses our procedure activity and, over the years, has settled on the procedure guideline numbers provided to fellows at orientation and reviewed with them semiannually.

Once I understood exactly why we need procedure logs, I started looking at how other specialties handle them, particularly surgical programs in which accurate procedure logs are vitally important. It turns out that they universally use, and look favorably on, the ACGME Case Log System - an online, all encompassing, tracking software. This system is provided to surgical programs despite ACGME’s focus on competencies rather than numbers. Why this system is not offered for GI programs is unclear. However, in my endeavor, I was able to find the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Procedure Log system. When we reviewed the system in 2015 for use in our program, it was more of a concept than an all-encompassing tool. Fortunately, the AGA Information Technology (IT) and Training departments were kind enough to work with us to develop a complete online tracking tool that could be used nationally by all trainees in GI. Finally, we had a system to keep an accurate, secure log online and in real time.

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