The experience of learning in surgery is to enter a whole new world of patients needing prompt assessment and decisions, requiring procedures that put patients at risk while achieving quality outcomes. At best, it is becoming part of the surgical team, learning from all its members, and doing your bit too.
During that experience there is a wonderful opportunity to learn from the whole of your patients' experience as well as developing competence and proficiency in knowledge and skills related to surgery.
The most effective way to develop knowledge is by self-directed learning. This is best done around cases you encounter, and the related problems that need to be answered. Knowledge is further added to by learning at the bedside, on ward rounds, in small groups, and by larger group or department teaching and learning sessions.
The core clinical skills of seeking and understanding a patient's problems and concerns, physical examination, making a diagnosis, and explaining and planning care are learnt by practice. Practicing these skills with patients needs to be done both alone and observed by peers and teachers with appropriate feedback. Doing lots of this now will have great returns by the time you graduate.
Technical skills are a very important part of surgery. The surgical attachment is not aiming to turn you into a surgeon in just a few weeks in the attachment! However, there will be procedures appropriate to your level. These will first be demonstrated to you and you will then have an opportunity to practice them under supervision until competency is achieved.
Learning how to communicate in a concise and efficient manner with the medical, nursing, and allied health teams is a key skill. Look for the opportunity to do this with peers and colleagues at all levels and receive feedback as a great way to sharpen your ability.
Finally, learning how to integrate your knowledge, clinical skills, and patient investigations on the surgical attachment will start you on the path to being an effective clinician. For some it may be a first step to a future in surgery, for most it will be an important stepping stone to being quality doctors of the future.
Most importantly, ensure you enjoy the opportunity!
The Department of Surgical Sciences contributes to the teaching of the following papers: