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Annual Meeting 2015

Achieving Excellence in Surgical Training

Macdonald Burlington Hotel, Birmingham, 22 October 2015

‘Achieving Excellence in Surgical Training’ used practical, real-life examples of excellent training and explained how it can be achieved in today’s health service.


Video Lectures

Fellows, Members and Associates of the Faculty of Surgical Trainers can log on to watch the video lectures from this conference here.


Photo highlights from the event are available of the FST facebook page


Conference review

This year’s Faculty of Surgical Trainers conference delivered a comprehensive programme, combining personal insights with national and international research on how to improve training

Take-home practical advice on how to improve as a trainer was one of the key promises ahead of this year’s FST conference in October. The presence of two Silver Scalpel winners among the speakers ensured that this promise was met, and there were also reviews of studies and initiatives from the UK and North America that provided a broader context to personal tips and insights.

The thorny issue of time for training came up as a theme in many talks. In the European Working Time Regulations (EWTR) era, perhaps this is easier in theory than in practice, but a striking number of speakers gave examples of how they made time for unpressured discussion with their trainees, either through journal clubs or simply by having a coffee after a session in theatre.

Another of the day’s prominent topics was feedback, with Dundee orthopaedic surgeon Sarah Gill discussing her recent study, which found that dialogic feedback (where trainees take more responsibility for evaluating their performance) appears to be a significant factor in improving trainee performance.


This was a view echoed by keynote speaker Teodor Grantcharov, associate professor and staff surgeon at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who highlighted the dangers of ‘meaningless’ feedback. Dr Grantcharov was involved in Canada’s ‘surgical black box’ initiative, which is now being introduced in centres throughout the world as a way of allowing individuals to assess their own performance and identify deficiencies. Performance deficiencies can be more apparent when reviewing a ‘black box’ recording than they are during an operation, said Dr Grantcharov. Similarly, he added, the benefits of practice should not be taken for granted. Just as feedback must be constructive, so practice must be ‘deliberate’ to improve performance. Dr Grantcharov cited examples from elite sport, such as the warm-up and pre-task mental rehearsal, all of which his studies have shown to improve performance in surgery.

Amid the data from studies and surveys, Mike Lavelle-Jones’s talk struck a chord with many for its advocacy of simple techniques that individual trainers can use on a daily basis. Here, delegates were advised of techniques similar to mindfulness, such as treating others with respect and not allowing personal issues to affect your behaviour at work. A past Silver Scalpel winner, Mr Lavelle-Jones will no doubt be putting his communication and interaction skills to good use as the College’s new president.

Chris Munsch, a Leeds-based cardiothoracic consultant, took this theme a step further by exploring seven habits of successful trainers. Common behaviours identified in Mr Munsch’s study included trainers’ ability to adapt their styles to suit those of their trainees, generosity with their own time combined with high-quality feedback, and clarity of what is expected of the trainee and the trainer.

University of Cambridge reader in clinical and experimental transplantation Gavin Pettigrew, the 2011 Silver Scalpel winner, said that trainees’ technical skills are part of a broader picture, and that mindset and judgement are the principal factors that can lead to poor technical performance.

Mike Bradburn, a consultant colorectal surgeon with Northumbria Healthcare, focused on defining and teaching professionalism – a key element of which is the style of past generations of trainers. The implication was that those consultants lucky enough to have good mentors during the early stages of their careers would in turn find it easier to deliver high-quality training. Mr Lavelle-Jones, however, suggested that a positive element of being on the receiving end of poor training was that it gave valuable insight into ‘what not to do’.

In his talk, FST Surgical Director Craig McIlhenny remarked that despite the evident enthusiasm for the provision of good training on show at the conference, there was still a low value placed on being a trainer in the health service. Reasons cited included lack of appropriate recognition and underlying assumptions that all consultants are experts and, therefore, will be good trainers.

Delegates were reminded of the many good reasons to train by David Finlayson, an Inverness-based professor of orthopaedic surgery and the 2001 BOTA Trainer of the Year. One of Mr Finlayson’s observations was that senior consultants can benefit and learn from exposure to the fresh perspectives, enthusiasm and ambition of early-years surgeons. Underlining the point, he enlivened his presentation with a number of role-play scenarios acted out by his own trainees.


The day closed with Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) President Rhiannon Harries picking up the prize for best oral presentation and Professor Kenneth MacKenzie, consultant otorhinolaryngologist head and neck surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, receiving the award for his poster on defining competence in flexible cystoscopy, with a novel approach using cumulative sum analysis.

Next year’s FST conference, Training by Numbers: Competence, Time and Money in Surgical Training, will be held in Edinburgh on 21 October 2016.

System Disruptions: 19th August 2017

Due to essential systems maintenance and upgrades there will be interruptions to some on-line services on Saturday 19th of August.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

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