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Planning for a Career in Surgery
People say you either love or hate surgery. I have wanted to pursue a surgical career since studying on a Urology firm as a 3rd year medical student. Most foundation tracks include some surgery and after that you are looking to apply to CST and then to a speciality training post.
Medical school – Take advantage of being on a surgical firm and get broad exposure to theatres, clinics, scope lists and MDTs. Think of it as finding out what you would do in your day, working as a SpR/ consultant. Ask about oncall rotas so you appreciate what you would be working in the future, and also ask a friendly trainee if you can follow them around to see what they see. People will be willing to get you involved but you need to show you are enthusiastic. Also, although it sounds obvious, read around the subject so when you see patients you will understand what is wrong with them and can answer any questions.
Surgical societies – Go along to the events run at your medical school as they are often aimed at exposing smaller surgical specialities and run suturing sessions. Even better, join the committee and get involved in networking and organising. I did this for 2 years at Manchester and it was great to meet so many people also interested in doing surgery, who were really motivated to get activities up and running.
Surgical skills – Try and get to grips with basic surgical skills such a suturing or knot tying. Find a friendly surgical trainee in your hospital to go over it with you or find a local course. If you know the basics then if you are in theatre and you get the chance to join in, you can maybe try doing more than holding a retractor (fun though that is). As well as surgical skills, look at the RCOS website and other surgical societies and see what related courses they offer.
Research – get involved in an audit as a medical student. Pick a SpR/ who you get on with and who has worked with students before. Don’t take anything on that is too big and find out before you start what you can get out of it. As a student presenting at the local clinical governance meeting is a good result, but aim high and see if it could be published, taken to a national conference (there are medical student conferences run by surgical societies for presenting research). ASiT and WINs have student membership and their conferences also include workshops and tutorials about how to get on in surgery.
Mentor – if you can find a senior colleague who is enthusiastic about the area you want to go into, make friends with them and ask them to be your mentor. They will be more willing to get you involved in projects if they feel you are in it for a career long-term. Not only will this give you opportunities but it will give you an insight into how a surgical career will fit with family etc.
Picking a job – If you can pick a track with surgery in FY2 you are likely to be given more independence from the ward duties, allowing you to go to theatre and clinics and maybe even work the surgical oncalls for RSO. I applied for an academic foundation job based in surgery so I can use the time doing research but also improving my clinical skills. Although it may change slightly, the person specification shows where you will get points on you application so plan to do these before 5th years comes around.
FY1 Academic Surgery