|Forefront of training|
|Tuesday, 29 November 2011|
The Association of Surgeons in Training has provided a pan-specialty focus for excellence in surgical training for over 30 years
The Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) is an educational charity working to promote excellence in surgical training across all nine surgical disciplines. Run by trainees, for trainees, the Association was originally founded in 1976 as a forum for senior registrars to meet socially and discuss matters relating to training. Over the past 30 years the Association has grown in size and stature and is now one of the largest surgical specialty associations in the UK and Ireland with over 2,200 current active members from all specialties.
The structure of ASiT Council consists of trainees from each recognised surgical specialty trainee group, and each School of Surgery. In recent years there has also been an expansion of ASiT’s junior representation through the appointment of dedicated medical student and foundation doctor representatives.
ASiT provides support for trainees’ educational and career development through a wide range of initiatives. Our two Covidien Travelling Fellowships awarded annually to senior trainees headline a number of awards and prizes to support individuals progressing through surgical training. ASiT also now offers many incentives for junior members including two Elsevier Surgical Elective Bursaries awarded annually, a dedicated ASiT conference session, a Foundation Doctors Surgical Essay Prize and an annual Foundation Doctors Seminar, which is free to members and prepares delegates for core surgical training applications.
The Association also works to support surgical trainers going the extra mile to help their trainees master the science and art of surgery. Now in its eleventh year, the annual Swann-Morton Silver Scalpel Award is a trainee-nominated prize for a consultant who has demonstrated excellence in surgical training. It provides important support and recognition for individuals who have put in the extra time for their trainees.
ASiT undertakes political lobbying on a number of current issues relevant to surgical training. Given the changes in university funding, and financial pressures on postgraduate medical training, ASiT is currently working to promote the potential financial barriers that surgical trainees increasingly face. We have recently conducted a study of our members on this topic, with 1,085 trainees responding. This revealed that trainees qualifying since 2004 graduated with an average debt of over £20,000. Study leave budgets posed a particular problem with significant geographical variation between deaneries. Many trainees continue to fund much of their own training and accumulate debt as a consequence which is projected to worsen with increased tuition fees. ASiT has consistently opposed the introduction of a training administration fee by the JCST and continues to lobby for action on standardising study leave budgets, making the JCST fee tax deductable, and minimising the costs of training courses and other related expenditure.
"Many of those trainees present at ASiT's foundation have now gone on to prominent roles within the surgical profession, including Royal College presidents"
ASiT in education
ASiT’s role in providing educational resources continues to grow through web-based resources, organised courses and the provision of fellowships. ASIT Education provides courses and other educational opportunities exclusively to ASiT members, focusing on key skills in all specialties. Our website has up to date information on our courses including our recent promotion of ASiT Foundation Skills in Surgery course at multiple venues within the UK, ASiT’s diverse portfolio of training courses now includes surgical teacher training, core laparoscopic skills, and academic and research skills, and many others.
Working Time Regulation
The impact of WTR is widely recognised to have had a detrimental effect on surgical training. This issue was highlighted by ASiT far in advance of its implementation, when a consensus survey was compiled in 2006. In 2009-2010, ASiT conducted the largest survey of surgical trainees to date with over 1,600 responses from all specialties, grades and regions. Over two-thirds of trainees reported deterioration in their surgical training since EWTD implementation in August, with only 1% of respondents experiencing any improvement. ASiT supports a recent parliamentary motion for a relaxation of the 48-hour week for surgical discipline’s and awaits the results of the on-going EU consultation. ASiT has received support from the Royal Colleges on the difficulties faced with training under these time restrictions. In the last edition of Surgeons’ News the RCSEd trainee representative voiced personal views on the EWTD which were at odds with the views of ASiT and BOTA. We acknowledge the subsequent clarification and hope the wider views of surgical trainees will be presented in future.
The ASiT National conference is held in spring each year over three days and attracts nearly 500 delegates from across all nine surgical specialties. It provides a forum for research presentation, stimulating discussion on training and clinical topics, as well as a programme tailored to the interests of trainees from all branches of surgery. Our 2012 conference will be held in Cardiff next March and will host eminent UK and international speakers who are at the forefront of training and the cutting edge of surgical innovation.
Our annual black-tie Gala Dinner Party remains one of the highlights of the weekend. The charity raffle at the Sheffield Gala Dinner raised £422 for Operation Hernia. This sum was matched by ASiT, amounting to £845, and goes towards surgical volunteers treating and training in inguinal hernia surgery in low and middle income countries.
For over 30 years ASiT has consistently raised the concerns and interests of its members with the Surgical Royal Colleges, JCST and numerous other working parties and committees influencing surgical training. Many of those trainees present at its foundation have now gone on to prominent roles within the surgical profession, including Royal College Presidents. With membership rising year-on-year, the future of ASiT continues to look healthy and we are working hard to ensure that in another 30-years’ time ASiT still represents the future of surgery across the country.