Get SET: aligning anatomy demonstrator programmes with Surgical Education and Training selection criteria

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The engagement of prevocational doctors as anatomy teachers is a common occurrence in undergraduate and graduate medical programmes.1 Often referred to as ‘anatomy demonstrators’ or ‘sessional anatomy teachers’, these temporary teaching positions have proven to be popular amongst prevocational doctors aspiring to surgical careers.1 Anatomy demonstrators support permanent academic staff and may be involved in a wide range of activities, including cadaveric dissection, facilitating tutorials, development of course materials and student assessment. For many medical programmes with a low staff‐to‐student ratio, the engagement of anatomy demonstrators is essential for the delivery of laboratory‐based and small group teaching sessions.1
Medically qualified demonstrators are uniquely positioned to highlight the clinical relevance of anatomy2 and act as professional role models and mentors to medical students.2 Engaging prevocational doctors as anatomy demonstrators is a mutually beneficial arrangement, with evidence from international studies suggesting that anatomy demonstratorships can contribute to the continuing education of prevocational doctors and positively influence the career trajectory of aspiring surgeons.1
As prevocational doctors with surgical aspirations are commonly recruited as anatomy demonstrators, a unique opportunity exists to constructively align anatomy demonstrator programmes with the continuing education and professional development of aspiring surgeons. Entry into the Surgical Education and Training (SET) programme in Australia is highly competitive and underpinned by a selection process that assesses the knowledge, skills and attitudes of SET applicants. The selection process is designed to take a holistic view of applicant competence and aims to select applicants who are most likely to succeed during surgical training. Aligning anatomy demonstrator programmes with SET core competencies and selection criteria serves the dual purpose of (i) enhancing the professional development and continuing education of prevocational doctors and (ii) improving the competitiveness of anatomy demonstrators applying for SET positions. Constructive alignment of anatomy demonstrator programmes may also encourage more prevocational doctors to engage in preclinical medical education. This would be a welcome development for many medical programmes which have reported difficulties recruiting suitably qualified anatomy teachers.
This study utilized a rigorous qualitative approach to analyse SET selection criteria in order to (i) determine what criteria applicants for SET are assessed on and (ii) identify criteria that could be aligned with and enhanced by an anatomy demonstrator programme.
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