Battle of the Surgeons 2022: A Reflection on a National Event

Battle of the Surgeons 2022: A Reflection on a National Event

On the 2nd of July the Foundation Trainees Surgical Society of the West Midlands organised the Battle of the Surgeons 2022, a national skills course and competition. It was an RCSEd-accredited course catered for pre-core training surgical aspirants and taught by registrars (>ST3) and consultant surgeons from a myriad of specialities.

The day started by laying a foundation for surgery by demonstrative lectures on common surgical instruments and sutures as well as needle types. The trainees then underwent a series of basic surgical skill workshops with highly supervised kinaesthetic learning, where the trainer to trainee ratio was 2-3:1. Faculty briefing prior to these sessions was meticulously done to avoid major heterogeneity and allowing for minor variations of practice in real life. 

The practical workshops comprised of hand and instrument knot tying, simple and mattress suturing, tendon repair on porcine models as well as anchoring porcine abdominal drain tubes with knot tying. These exercises gave the trainees an opportunity to ‘learn by doing’, reflecting and then reattempting the task in somewhat a similar manner, thereby employing Kolb’s learning cycle where learning is said to be consolidated by reflection and building on experiences. (Kolb 1984). The last item on the itinerary of the day was a friendly competition, where trainees were assessed on a 1:1 basis by independent assessors and their basic suturing skills were assessed against standardised pre-agreed marksheets to avoid bias.

One of the attendees said:

Opportunities to practice basic suturing skills under close connoisseur supervision is in itself an exciting exercise for us budding surgeons but the element of a competition makes it even more exciting!

It did not only provide an opportunity for the trainees to win prizes, but also served as an incentive by adding ‘value’ to the trainees unpunctuated attention throughout the day. We feel that the course reinforces: Motivation to learn = Expectancy of success x Value of success. (Weiner 1992) (Taylor & Hamdy 2013) The top three winners won a gift voucher to attend the National FTSS conference in Edinburgh this year. Informal feedback from faculty and delegates was very positive, whilst we await collated online feedback from the college.

As a team member and course lead, I felt it gave a taste of surgery to the undecided and provided an opportunity to practice for keen budding surgeons as well as an opportunity to rise, shine and inspire by participating in competitions where one gets to demonstrate one’s skill. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) provides a very supportive framework that guides trainees such as myself to (i) construct courses under senior consultant supervision (ii) get the plan accredited (iii) offer an efficient booking system which a logistical life saver and more importantly a fabulous team of managers that offer advice all along the way. I hope by sharing our experiences from the West Midlands, I get to inspire more (future) surgeons to partake in organising learning events that shape the future of surgery by designing the surgeons of tomorrow, who are the foundation trainees of today!

Written by Nakulan Nantha Kumar, Academic Foundation Doctor, University Hospital North West Midlands (UHNM), on behalf of Foundation Trainees Surgical Society (FTSS) of the West Midlands.

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the organising committee of this event as without their support it would not have been possible, namely Mr Sriram Rajagopalan, Ms Rebecca Lefroy, Mr Tahir Khaleeq, Yanish Poolovadoo, Mrithula Shivakumar, Alicia Halsall, Dhanya Lakxmi, Christopher Swift and Sufia Laulloo.


Kolb D. 1984. Experiental learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Kusurkar RA, Ten Cate OTJ. 2013. AM last page: Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire: Self-determination theory and motivation in medical students. Acad Med 88:904.

Taylor, D. C. & Hamdy, H. 2013. Adult learning theories: implications for learning and teaching in medical education: AMEE Guide No. 83. Med Teach, 35, e1561-72.

Weiner B. 1992. Human motivation: Metaphors, theories, and research.  Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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