|Online for success|
The College’s online Masters in Surgical Sciences is enjoying record student numbers and has a growing international reach
The Edinburgh Surgical Sciences Qualification (ESSQ) programme delivered its first group of Masters Graduates in July 2010 and, since its launch three years earlier, has consistently demonstrated that the format meets with strong approval from enrolled surgical trainees.
This growing reputation for excellence has resulted in increased recruitment year-on-year with over 200 postgraduate students currently studying on the award-winning course. Importantly for the College, ESSQ students are continuing to show a significantly improved success rate in the MRCS examination.
Masters research project
The third year of the ESSQ ran for the first time in 2009/10, and the team took the decision to introduce an iterative and incremental in-course assessment component replicating the natural research interaction between student and tutor. The use of such a design also helps to progress the project through conceptual, developmental and delivery stages, and ensures that the student cohort achieve appropriate milestones at a similar rate. The assessment is based not only on the final project report but includes a project outline, a detailed summary and an e-poster. Thus, half of the final mark relates to activities assessed throughout the year, thereby allowing the ESSQ team to offer feedback and monitor progress, in addition to the support trainees receive from their project supervisor.
Masters research project supervisors
The ESSQ has the highest student numbers of any postgraduate programme at the University of Edinburgh and has a growing international reach. As such, it would have been extremely challenging to source all project supervisors in-house. To overcome this, and the potential barriers of distance, the programme decided to take the novel step of encouraging trainees to nominate project supervisors whom they know from their clinical contacts closer to home. These potential supervisors, many of them members of the College, were previewed by the University of Edinburgh and awarded honorary academic positions for the duration of their appointment.
New ChM in General Surgery
The College is building on the success of the ESSQ by developing a second, part-time online postgraduate degree, this time supporting the advanced surgical trainee. A two-year Master of Surgery (ChM) is being piloted firstly in General Surgery to consolidate learning towards the intercollegiate examination and to recognise the subspecialty interest of the trainee. It is intended that this will be the next in a suite of distance learning surgical educational programmes developed in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.
ESSQ Graduate Spotlight: Ben Stutchfield MRCS, winner of the Lister Surgical Sciences Medal and the BJS Prize for best General Surgery essay leading to publication
Ben Stutchfield started the ESSQ as an FY2 in 2007 and was the highestperforming MSc student of 2010 for his research project ‘Extracorporeal liver support systems and survival’. Ben will shortly become the first recipient of a new College medal, the Lister Surgical Sciences medal, to be awarded annually to the top-scoring MSc student. In addition, Ben was awarded the BJS prize for the best manuscript on a general surgery topic and will be published after peer-review in the BJS May issue. We asked Ben to give his thoughts on the programme.
Why did you choose the ESSQ?
I was attracted to the ESSQ by the structured approach to the Royal College of Surgeons Membership exams, combined with the opportunity to complete a Masters degree alongside clinical training.
How did you find e-learning?
I had no previous experience of learning online but found the set-up straightforward to use, and it was great to be able to discuss topics directly with experts from various specialties. It fitted in well with clinical duties, being able to use the website from any computer, while being posted up and down the country for clinical training.
Has the programme helped the progression of your surgical career?
I was asked about the Masters degree at ST interviews and the interviewers were certainly interested in the programme. The research skills I have gained during the process have proved invaluable. I have since decided to undertake a period of dedicated research and the MSc background was very helpful in gaining funding for this.
How did you go about selecting your Masters Research Project?
I wanted to undertake a project in my chosen specialty of hepatobiliary/ transplant surgery. There is a real need for therapies to support the failing liver and I was keen to investigate this further. Meta analysis of extracorporeal liver support systems had not been undertaken for some time, and I thought that this would be a good way of gaining skills in this research method.
What parts of the ESSQ did you like best?
During the first two years, being able to discuss issues online with experts in various specialties, especially anaesthetics and critical care, was particularly valuable. I also enjoyed developing and working towards the final-year MSc project.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in taking the programme this year?
Working towards a further degree alongside training is a good way to help build your CV and gain skills outside clinical practice. If you can tie this in with Membership examinations, it is a great way to maximise your time.
For more information:
ESSQ (MSc in Surgical Sciences), visit: www.essq.rcsed.ac.uk
Applications are now open to commence the ESSQ in September 2011.