Integrated surgical academic training in the UK: a cross-sectional survey

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Abstract

Objectives

This study aimed to explore variations in the provision of integrated academic surgical training across the UK.

Design

This is an online cross-sectional survey (consisting of 44 items with a range of free-text, binomial and 5-point Likert scale responses) developed by the Association of Surgeons in Training.

Setting

A self-reported survey instrument was distributed to academic surgical trainees across the UK (n=276).

Participants

143 (51.9%) responses were received (81% male, median age: 34 years), spanning all UK regions and surgical specialties. Of the 143 trainees, 29 were core trainees (20.3%), 99 were specialty trainees (69.2%) and 15 (10.5%) described themselves as research fellows.

Results

The structure of academic training varied considerably, with under a third of trainees receiving guaranteed protected time for research. Despite this, however, 53.1% of the respondents reported to be satisfied with how their academic training was organised. Covering clinical duties during academic time occurred commonly (72.7%). Although most trainees (n=88, 61.5%) met with their academic supervisor at least once a month, six (4.2%) never had an academic supervisory meeting. Most trainees (n=90, 62.9%) occupied a full-time rota slot and only 9.1% (n=13) described their role as ‘supernumerary’. Although 58.7% (n=84) of the trainees were satisfied with their clinical competence, 37.8% (n=54) felt that clinical time focused more on service provision than the acquisition of technical skills. 58 (40.6%) had experienced some form of negative sentiment relating to their status as an academic trainee.

Conclusions

Integrated academic training presents unique challenges and opportunities within surgery. This survey has identified variation in the quality of current programmes, meaning that the future provision of integrated surgical academic training should be carefully considered.

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