How Can I Get Ahead?
There are many things that you can do while you are a medical student to increase your prospects of succeeding in your goal of a career in surgery.
- Join a surgical society
- Speak to Regional Surgical Adviser
- Apply for ESSQ
- Plan a surgical elective
- Enter yourself for a surgical prize or award
- Attend surgical events and courses
- Start your surgical logbook
Most medical schools have an active surgical society in addition to their medical students' society, for students with a particular interest in surgery. These societies frequently organise lectures and events and are great to get involved with as a member or as part of the committee. If your medical school does not already have a surgical society, why not consider starting one up?
Medical schools have active surgical societies and The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh often supports events and awards run by these groups.
If you are an Affiliate in good standing and have queries about your surgical career, it can be helpful to have a knowledgeable contact nearby who can steer you in the right direction. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has a network of Regional Surgical Advisers (RSAs) throughout the UK who are available to student affiliates of the College for advice and guidance. Find your local RSA here.
If you are approaching the end of medical school and set on a surgical specialty and a career in surgery you will have no doubt turned your mind at some point to the fact that after graduation you will need to start working towards sitting the MRCS. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has designed a unique programme in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh which can help you begin to work towards this goal, as well as giving you a highly regarded postgraduate qualification.
The Edinburgh Surgical Sciences Qualification (ESSQ) is a flexible, part-time, three year online Masters course designed for the modern surgeon in training. The first two years of the course follow the UK Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme, thereby helping to prepare you for the Membership of the Royal Colleges Examination (MRCS).
If you are a final year medical student you can apply for a place on this course by providing an interim academic transcript (and providing your final degree certificate once obtained). For more details on the programme and eligibility requirements, please visit the ESSQ website here.
Why not use your elective period to obtain more surgical experience? The College offers several bursaries for affiliates who are planning to undertake a surgical elective and offers a separate bursary scheme for affiliates who wish to undertake clinical research as an elective or during a vacation period.
There are plenty of surgical award schemes for students available and participating in these can be a useful addition to your CV. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh runs annual Student Research Symposia in Edinburgh and South Wales which provide great CV enhancing opportunities. Any audits or small research projects that you can do in addition to your usual studies will give you excellent further experience and get you noticed when it comes to applying for posts further down the track.
There are lots of events and courses run for medical students with an interest in surgery. The College hosts several of these each year. Most courses will provide you with a certificate of attendance and give you a valuable opportunity to receive advice from faculty members (which often include consultants as well as surgical trainees and foundation doctors) and speak with other students interested in surgery. While enhancing your surgical skills and knowledge you can also be doing some invaluable networking!
It is vital that you keep a record of all your relevant surgical experience. If you start doing this while you are at medical school, this will give you an opportunity to become familiar with (and get in the habit of) inputting the information regularly and start building a useful collection of data and experience for your later career. You can sign up to use the College's e-logbook here.
When you are a foundation doctor, you will be required to enter the data into a separate NHS logbook, but we would recommend that you continue to duplicate the info into your e-logbook, which you will use beyond your foundation years for the duration of your surgical career.
Is surgery for me?
If you have already undertaken some surgical rotations, then you will have a good idea of what becoming a surgeon involves and of the pathway to becoming a specialist. Speaking with as many surgeons, trainee surgeons and Foundation Doctors as possible will give you a good idea of all the options available to you in terms of specialties, job types and training. After graduation, it will take two years of Foundation Training and around seven years as a trainee (but often longer) before you will reach the stage of being able to apply for consultant posts.
To succeed, you will need to be determined, enthusiastic and have a passion for the specialism that you wish to pursue. You will need to be self-motivated, emotionally stable, possess good decision-making skills and be calm under pressure.