Are we doing enough to encourage future surgeons?
Historically, a career in surgery has a notorious reputation, with anecdotes of long hours, difficult bosses and competitive hurdles. Yet there is still much appeal; perhaps due to the desire to master those surgical skills and the optimism of becoming a surgical consultant – especially one just as inspiring as the person who hooked you into the profession in the first place.
In the past decade there have been many changes to what it means to be a doctor. These, seemingly, have cumulated in ‘tick-box’ exercises, shift work and the strikes over the contract for junior doctors. Burnout and/or despondency is increasingly talked about. Mr O’Brien, President-Elect for BAUS (British Association of Urological Surgeons), recently presented at the Royal Society of Medicine his ‘Future of British Urology’; he spoke of many challenges ahead, but opportunities aplenty. He also suggested that anyone can be a urologist due to the breadth of skills required within the specialty; therefore, it is imperative to showcase surgical specialities and engage at grass roots level.
At a local and national level, we need to do more to ensure that bright, enthusiastic, able students and trainees who want to do surgery are encouraged and retained. Exposure to surgery, especially urology, is often limited at medical schools, and foundation year placements are becoming increasingly community based.
One way of inspiring and exposing junior colleagues to surgery and its specialties is to encourage attendance at the ASiT Conference, Birmingham 2020; and for urology, to attend the BSoT Conference, Leeds 2020. These national trainee groups: ASiT (Association of Surgeons in Training) and BSoT (BAUS Section of Trainees) are run by trainees, for trainees. They support best training and promote surgery as a career. They are a great introduction to surgery and urology as a future career and are a potentially less intimidating, more welcoming affair than their ‘grown up’ equivalents. Additional events run throughout the year and there are regional representatives for both ASiT and BSoT. There are other surgical trainee groups that relate to other specialties.
Attendance at conferences and surgical meetings are an amazing opportunity to engage in the scientific and social programmes, to meet other like-minded people and see the vast possibilities of the specialty. Furthermore, conferences offer the opportunity to present academic work, audit and quality improvement projects. The abstract deadlines for these trainee conferences are fast approaching. Helping a trainee prepare an abstract to submit, is invaluable; it could springboard their potential for success at interview and result in a boost of their self-belief.
So, let us encourage surgery as a future career and show students and junior colleagues the best (and worst) of surgery and surgical training. Conferences are one option, but we can also all talk about surgical careers and be that positive role model: spark that enthusiasm. Urology taster weeks and careers days are other examples. Let’s congratulate successes and offer support during the difficult times.
What do you do to encourage the juniors around you? Please let us know in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The author is a current urology trainee and holds committee positions on both ASiT and BSoT groups. Her only conflict in writing this blog is to encourage others to engage and collaborate with these trainee-led groups and attend the upcoming conferences.