The pandemic has forced numerous and varied adaptations in how we live and work as surgeons. Some involve long overdue improvements in digital technology. In the NHS for instance, telemedicine has been made feasible across the board, together with reliable access to virtual desktops that enable some work from home.
Other enforced changes have been much less welcome for patients and surgeons alike. The largely necessary cuts in elective operating meant fewer training opportunities – starkly visible on trainee logbooks. Now, however, a massive backlog must be faced. These operating lists must take place with trainee involvement and not simply be outsourced to a training-unfriendly private sector. Hopefully this can promote longer term involvement of trainees in waiting list initiatives and outsourced lists.
The conference merry-go-round has also had to change. At first, conferences were cancelled and then, later in the pandemic, online iterations became standard. Some have achieved great success. The environmental benefits and convenience of avoiding in-person attendance have been welcomed by many. Whilst F2F networking is a valuable aspect of some meetings, a hybrid model that facilitates remote attendance must surely become the norm. It is likely that future in-person events will also need to raise the bar to attract attendance. For surgeons, this might involve enhanced tangible experiences. For example, testing new surgical technology or practising specific simulated skills. Even skills training, however, can cross into the digital world.
eoSurgical essentially represents an online MIS skills environment, allowing flexible and personalised skills development at a distance. This has clearly been valued peri-pandemic as more and more deaneries incorporate our platform into their training. Online surgical MSc programs are also moving away from purely theoretical knowledge to begin to incorporate skills training and we are proud to be involved. This change is likely to persist and become an embedded component of training curricula.
There are, therefore, several reasons to be positive - the enforced changes we have all faced are likely to leave several residual benefits in their wake.
Consultant Neurosurgeon and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Edinburgh