This time of the year marks the regular rotation of postgraduate trainees in the UK. Many groups have been in the previous post for longer than usual, with COVID dictating a pause to planned rotations. For some, selection processes into training posts have also been altered due to COVID. In the UK, many medical students stepped up to serve as doctors earlier than usual. At the other end of the spectrum, some have been unable to complete training due to cancelled exams or lost training opportunities. Trainees and trainers are coming to terms with a slightly different system – one that is in flux.
For surgeons in almost all sub-specialities, the caseload remains lower and clinics are remaining, at least in part, reliant on telemedicine. Educational conferences and courses have been cancelled or moved online. Examinations have been paused and their structures changed. Some have advocated a pause to training and recruitment. However, given the uncertainty regarding COVID and the likelihood of it becoming part of a new normal – rather than something that is eradicated – it makes more sense to adapt and continue. An effective and globally distributed vaccine is likely to be years away.
The key question is how we use this challenge as an opportunity to improve training – and surgical care – in the long term. The RCSEd, the Scottish Surgical Simulation Collaborative, and Edinburgh Surgery Online are considering how surgical simulation and in eLearning can better be integrated into training in response. The COVID crisis is acting as a driver for change that arguably ought to have occurred already. Those systems that had already embedded eLearning and simulation have been significantly better prepared.
If you are one of the new starts, ‘COVID-era trainees’, we want to support your training. We can provide our simulation hardware and software at a discounted price. Use the code cst2020 at checkout to receive a 10% discount during August and September. Similarly, if you are involved in the delivery of training, feel free to get in touch so we can discuss tailored proposals for your trainee cohort.
Consultant neurosurgeon and honorary clinical lecturer, Edinburgh