In many healthcare settings, there has been a concerted effort to free up hospital beds for patients with COVID-19 and to enhance critical care capacity. To help, elective surgical procedures have largely been put on hold with only urgent and emergent cases being performed.
The upshot is that many surgical trainees find themselves re-deployed in medical roles when at work, and locked down when at home. Study leave has been paused for UK trainees, though the limitations on movement and gatherings mean courses and meetings have of course all been cancelled – or moved entirely online. Similarly, most regular regional teaching is not running at present. Some trainees will even find themselves forced into isolation whilst awaiting COVID-19 testing for themselves or someone in their household.
All of this means that traditional surgical learning experiences are in short supply. Furthermore, it is a situation likely to persist for some time. As and when we can begin a gradual return to some form of normality is impossible to predict.
As NHS surgeons ourselves, we’ve put together some resources and ideas that can help you to keep your surgical mindset working and primed – so that once this over, we can hit the ground running.
Starting close to (our) home, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has an extensive and well-established range of web-based surgical post-grad training opportunities. Run in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Surgery Online suite of eLearning programmes offer a range of options for surgeons in the various stages of their training. The Masters in Surgical Sciences is the longest running option (details here), and is fantastic preparation for sitting the MRCS examination.
For higher trainees, there are other programmes based on the UK Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum - supporting learning for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) examinations. There are currently speciality-specific ChM programmes for General Surgery, Urology, Trauma & Orthopaedics, Vascular & Endovascular and Clinical Ophthalmology.
To get a better understanding of how the pandemic is impacting the process of your training. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is running a free webinar this Thursday. More information and registration is here. Staying with RCSEng, take a look at their free eSurgery learning resource. Good for early years trainees, more information is here.
Many of us fund ourselves doing many more telephone or video consultations just now. The GMC has some useful guidelines on remote consultations. It is likely that post-pandemic, we will use these consultation methods significantly more than we have done previously. Now is the time to upskill.
For keeping up surgical skills – but with limited access to patients – the only option is simulation. As it happens, at eoSurgical we have built the full package! For those wishing to use a take-home simulator, in parallel with a bespoke curriculum and in-built performance metrics, take a look at our website at www.eosurgical.com. We feel that this should be a standard part of training anyway but, given the impact of the pandemic, it is arguably even more prescient. We’re offering free software licenses for surgical trainees for the duration of the pandemic too.
Stay safe, stay positive, and look out for opportunities to innovate that have been highlighted by the pressures exerted by this pandemic.
Consultant neurosurgeon, Edinburgh