You were all probably looking forward to a summer filled with fun – perhaps going back home with family, going out with friends, or travelling to exciting places. Or perhaps, for those of you that are thinking of a career in surgery this summer was the time to have experience in theatre, do surgery-related research or go to that long-awaited conference!
But alas! Now all these plans have had to be modified. I had to change mine too (which involved a few cancelled flights) but the question at the back of my mind remains: how to still make this summer productive in terms of my future in surgery. Whether you just want to explore a surgical career and all it entails, or have already made up your mind and are looking for experience that will help you in the coming years, here are a few ideas to keep engaged with surgery during these unprecedented times.
1. Read more about different surgical specialties
Are you considering surgery as a future career? Were you waiting for your placement to explore the different specialties and weight up all your options? As placements were cancelled, you might have lost this opportunity, but you can still do a lot of research at home! A good starting place ( if you haven’t read it already) is the Surgical Careers Booklet found in the website of the Royal College of England (find it in the following link: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/careers-in-surgery/medical-students/). To learn more about any of the ten surgical specialties, try visiting the Society that represents it, for example the SCTS for Cardiothoracic surgery.
2. Made up your mind? Be familiar with the journey to your goal!
If you already have a good idea of which path within surgery you want to follow, the next step is having a “road map”. It may seem early to consider applications to surgical training when you have not even graduated, but entry is competitive and you will be later grateful for having started in advance, it definitely helps! For any given specialty, you can check the person specification for you specialty of interest, since this will give you an idea of what they expect from applicants, and how you can start building up your experience from medical school. This might give you an idea of what activities you want to get involved next academic year to boost your portfolio: whether that is peer teaching, getting involved in the committee of your surgical society or getting involved in research.
3. Enter an essay competition
No excuses for not participating in an essay competition this summer, lockdown is the ideal time to start writing! There are plenty of opportunities, and many of them surgically-related, that have a deadline in July/August/September. Make use of any competitions advertised through your Faculty or in places such as the Royal Society of Medicine – they have a list of essay competitions still open for submission! (Check https://www.rsm.ac.uk/prizes-and-awards/prizes-for-students/).
4. Brush up your knowledge
It doesn’t mean you will spend your summer trying to become a surgical encyclopedia! If you have already been on a placement in surgery, revise and develop further some of the key topics. That way, next time you are in the wards your knowledge will be fresh! You could perhaps read more on a developing fields of research within surgery, and learn about what are the challenges faced today and the direction of future research.
Of course, it is important you also take a good break during the holidays, and rest well before starting the next academic year and all the studying that awaits! However, it is good to know that if you want to keep engaged, there are a variety of options to choose from, even when in a situation such as the one we are living through right now.
What about you?
Are you doing anything surgery-related this summer? Share with us below!