Investigations suggested a trend towards enhanced acquisition of microsurgical skill in students allowed to practice microsurgery on all kinds of simulators and/or in the wet laboratory [16,17,18]. Nevertheless, in the early twenty-first century, the ophthalmic education of residents in China was unstructured and of variable quality. There were more and more concerns arising about the ability of new medical graduates to meet the demands of today’s practice environment. Thus, China started the residency program about 10 years ago and Shanghai was one of the pilot cities. Up to now, each city is still responsible for its own resident training and examination. In Shanghai, the committee of ophthalmic resident training standardized the program as 3 years of ophthalmology education, and every year they will attend an annual ophthalmology residency-in-training examination. The major purpose of those examinations is to evaluate residents’ competence in 4 aspects: (1) medical knowledge, (2) patient care and communication skills, (3) case-based learning and analyzing, and (4) surgical skills. Suturing technique is a critical and fundamental part of microsurgery. Standardized and adept micromanipulation and suturing would pave the way for entering the surgical realm of ophthalmology. Therefore, the surgical skills of junior residents are assessed by performance on suturing corneal rupture on pig eyes. This kind of examination has been held for 5 years and the ophthalmic educators found out that the traditional scoring method might be unreliable due to grade inflation and overt subjective assessments [10, 19, 20]. Residency examination is supposed to enable competence in all aspects by collecting performance data that reliably and accurately reflects the resident’s real ability. Thus, a valid and reliable assessment tool is desperately needed.
To our knowledge, this is the first throughout assessment scale for corneal rupture suturing in wet laboratory. Fisher et al.  developed a phacoemulsification/wound construction and suturing technique assessment scale for ophthalmology residents, but suturing technique assessment was only part of the scale containing 8 general items. The scale was simple and only had 2 choices (not done/incorrect and done correctly). There was no behavioral or skill-based rubric for the observers to use when assessing the resident’s performance. Feldman et al.  used a corneal laceration repair assessment to evaluate microsurgical skill improvement after training on the simulator. However, the assessment was totally objective and only measured suture depth, bite size and suture spacing. In this study, we created a comprehensive, globally applicable assessment scale to evaluate the key components of corneal rupture suturing. This assessment scale breaks down to 15 essential items including 6 measures of basic surgical skills and 9 measures of the stages of suturing, with basic skill measures similar to that employed in GRASIS and OSCAR. Moreover, the scale is rated on a 5-point Likert scale with behavioral anchors for each level in each step of the surgical procedure.
The reliability and repeatability of the assessment tools mentioned above were seldom detected. In this study, we investigated validity, reliability and repeatability of our assessment scale. For validity, we asked 23 experts from different teaching and research offices, and all the comments were considered and appropriate suggestions were incorporated into the assessment scale. Therefore, a level of face and content validity was established. Considering the reliability for the entire group of 21 observers, the ICC values were higher than 0.8 (range 0.860–0.976) in all 15 individual categories as well as the overall score, indicating reliability of the tool as a whole. What’s more, the assessment scale yielded very good repeatability, with ICC values ranging from 0.833 to 0.954. An assessment scale is considered to give almost perfect outcomes when ICC value is 0.75 and above [13, 15, 22].
Drawbacks of the assessment scale are that it is relatively simple and it cannot provide information about resident’s judgment and handling of complications on real operations. However, it is a standardized tool that can be used to determine whether a resident is adequately prepared, in terms of their basic microsurgical skills, to enter the operating room. The “passing” threshold could be set at a score of > 3 for each item on the 5-point Likert scale. In addition, process in the wet laboratory can be standardized so that each resident is assessed under comparable circumstances, and ophthalmic educators can easily track their improvements or adjust the complexity to train residents of different rotating levels by changing the rupture (straight/ “Y” shaped rupture, with/without limbus).