How to Practice Suturing at Home

One of my attendings is fond of saying that you shouldn’t learn to suture in the OR. You should learn to suture in a sim lab, practice on your own, and demonstrate your skills in the OR. How the heck are you supposed to actually do that? Well, here are a few tips:

Don’t assume that the sim lab you get at the beginning of your rotation (or the beginning of internship) is enough.

Suturing well takes practice. LOTS of practice. You will learn the basics in the sim lab, but getting good at suturing, like anything else, means practicing on your own. I can almost guarantee you that whatever sim lab or suture lab you got as part of your formal education is NOT enough for you to learn to suture at all. These sim labs are meant to give you the information you need to be able to practice on your own.

Don’t expect to do your practicing in the OR.

As a student, suturing in the OR is pretty much a privilege. It’s a fact of life that your residents are faster than you at suturing, and they are doing you a favor if they let you suture. Why? Because it means they have to stand there and watch you do it, instead of going to eat lunch, writing their discharge summaries, or any of the other hundred things they need to get done. As a new intern, the same basic principles apply. So get good and quick on your own so you can work quickly when you hit the prime time.

The snazzy”sim skin” stuff is nothing like real skin.

In fact, the closest things that I have found to real skin for suture practice are:

  • Bananas. The pigment on the outside with the thick white layer underneath it is a pretty decent approximation of a dermal-epidermal junction, and you can eat them after.
  • Pork belly. When you buy it at the grocery store, pork belly often comes in a big, flat sheet with the skin still attached all along one flat surface. It’s cheap, and a single piece of pork belly will give you hours worth of suturing space.
  • Chicken with the skin on. I see a lot of people use this, but honestly I think the skin is too stretchy and too thin to be a reasonable approximation of human skin.

You can easily find almost everything you need to practice.

  • Needle driver: Practice with a hemostat if you’re desperate, or ask the residents. We usually have a couple floating around.
  • Suture: Ask the residents, or the scrub techs in the OR. There is usually a stash somewhere of opened suture that hasn’t been used
  • Scalpel: Disposable scalpels are easily available most places, just ask for one. Also available on amazon.
  • Pickups: Find a suture removal kit with disposable instruments in it. They are cheap, easily available, and will contain an acceptable (if not great) pair of pickup. DON’T steal the tweezers that your mother/girlfriend/wife/sister left in the bathroom. She will kill you.

YouTube is your friend.

You can find a bunch of helpful suturing videos in the Resources and Study Tools section of the site under Essential Skills.

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