Sep 5, 2012
Philadelphia, PA
Podiatry Student
I have read and heard said from directors and students that one of the things they are looking for is someone who is "good with their hands". I assume this is referring to fine motor skills like one would need in surgery.

1) How do they even evaluate something like that?

2)How does one acquire and hone such skills?
Sep 17, 2013
I think its more important to understand what your trying to accomplish and how to get it done. The hand skills come with practice if you know what you are doing. You can tell people that don't have a lot of surgical experience because they are super hesitant with the knife and very slow. With that being said, some are pretty clumsy and watching them do surgery can be painful.


10+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2009
Attending Physician
1) How do they evaluate hand skills?
It is rumored that programs use simple tasks to complete the assessment. During residency interviews, programs have students do things like fly a remote control helicopter while answering questions or suture while going through a case study. These tasks and many other far flung scenarios are used to test motor skills as well as knowledge under stressful circumstances.

2)How do you improve your skills?
It is as simple is picking up a new gaming system....http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467109

There is a surprising amount of literature supporting the benefits of video games in the surgical arena. By no means are video games the only way to improve fine motor skills, but it has to be one of the funnest.


Back in the saddle again
Staff member
10+ Year Member
Feb 20, 2007
The most unique thing I ever heard of a program doing to test your hands is to suture with chopsticks. I don't know how much stock I put in things like that, to be honest. Some programs pay attention to those things. Best advice is to be prepared for anything at interviews.


Interestingly, I've been asked to suture or throw hand ties more at the programs I've visited than at the ones I've clerked at.
Really? I've had the exact opposite experience.

"Sorry you can't scrub in today. Since you are not clerking your insurance does not carry through so you will be observing today. Is that ok?" <-- is somewhere along the lines of what the programs have told me when I visit.

4th year is very unpredictable. Everyone has different experiences. Its hard to be "ready for anything" but you should be ready to suture/hand tie. That's pretty basic at this stage in the game.

g squared 23

made it out alive
7+ Year Member
Mar 1, 2010
The woods
"Good with your hands" or not doesn't matter.

There are about 5% of people who are naturally gifted and are destined for great things, almost regardless of their training situation.

There are about 5% who are absolutely horrendous and no matter their training will always be poor surgically.

The other 90% of us aren't good or bad, and with enough training can create solid surgical skills. In general, surgeons are made, not born. Anyone with minimal hand-eye coordination can be taught to cut. If you can tie your shoes, you can be a competant surgeon. But I'll tell my wife that I'm training for surgery so I can play video games.


time to eat
10+ Year Member
May 16, 2007
Interesting subject. I was a scrub tech before podiatry school and definitely noticed that some surgeons had better hands than others. I tend to think it is more of a natural thing rather than learned. I think that even a natural will look clumsy in the OR when not trained, but that after equal training, a natural will shine above another surgeon.

As kids we flew radio controlled planes. We were about 10 years old when we started. One was a natural and flew the first flight very well. Another crashed his model time and time again, but eventually could fly well. The natural is now an airline pilot, and the other one (competently) flies a private plane.