Metacognition for pilots (and surgeons!)

Aviation psychology is the study of psychological factors of flight crews with an aim to improving performance, safety and job satisfaction and decreasing adverse events such as accidents.

The field developed in reaction to serious flight crashes, particularly in the 1970s, when it was discovered that pilot error was the primary cause of serious plane accidents.

Aviation psychology is associated with, for example, the start of using checklists at critical phases of flights and maintenance as well as understanding of interpersonal dynamics and culture related to a safe work environment, such as the “silent cockpit” principle during critical phases like takeoff and landing, and progressing away from a vertical authoritarian work structure that prevent less senior staff from raising concerns or taking corrective action when necessary.

Much of this was instigated decades ago and the field continues to improve.

Surgery is also a high pressure, life-critical profession. Why has it been so slow to uptake these profound improvements in professional outcomes?

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Dr Uttam Shiralkar, FRCS, MRPsych, is a surgical performance coach based in the UK.Uttam worked as a surgeon for 15 years in the UK, India, and the US before moving to psychiatry. This transition was the result of the medical problems he faced after a serious car accident. While working in psychiatry, it became clear to him the profound impact that a surgeon’s psychology has on performance and surgical outcomes. This revelation inspired him to bring psychological research into surgical practice and training.

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Surgical Metacognition

Smarter Decision-making for Surgeons

Dr Uttam Shiralker

Surgical Metacognition

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