|So you want to be a course convenor?|
|Friday, 08 March 2013|
Setting up a training course can make for an impressive line on your CV, but it can also be a huge logistical challenge. ASiT shares a guide to running your own surgical course
In recent years, the Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) has conceived, devised and delivered numerous novel courses to meet the various training needs of its members. With surgical education and training being its core focus, the organisation prides itself on providing high quality, great value courses.
Over this time the scope and number of courses offered has adapted to take into account recent changes in surgical training and curricula and the increasingly unaffordable costs of attending many postgraduate training courses. ASiT currently offers courses targeted at every level of surgical training, from learning to tie a surgical knot to cultivating your subspecialty interest.
Why arrange a course?
As a surgical trainee you are your own target audience. You are also more attuned to the needs and obstacles which your junior colleagues will face. Setting up a course is also a good way to demonstrate your commitment to surgical education. Before you embark however, be aware that it is an extremely labour intensive process and do not be misled into thinking this will be an easy line on your CV. “Typically surgical courses are expensive and a huge financial burden on the trainee. For 2013 we have endeavoured to develop courses covering as many different specialties as possible – this will be seen not only at the Conference, but also in those arranged throughout the year such as statistics, ENT, Endoscopy, consenting and much more,” says Piriyah Sinclair, Convenor of ASiT Mentorship and Coaching Course.
The idea for a course topic will usually arise organically, by speaking with medical student surgical societies, trainees’ committees or your surgical firm. Make sure it is not only you who thinks the course is a good idea. Topics of courses organised by ASiT include preparing for job applications, research skills, surgical skills and mentorship. The 13 courses integrated into the ASiT 2013 Conference are listed in the table below. Adam Williams, ST5 and Convenor of the Introductory Neurosurgical Skills Course which will be piloted at the ASiT 2013 Conference, says: “There are a multitude of excellent neurosurgical courses aimed at junior registrars, however there are far fewer tailored to the needs of the Foundation or CT level doctor. There is ample opportunity within a neurosurgical placement for FY/CT doctors to undertake some of the smaller and more common procedures, and our hope is to provide a safe introduction to these practical procedures.”
Faculty and venue
Getting senior support is inordinately important in being able to secure a venue and access to deanery mailing lists. At the very least, letting your team know you are organising an educational course will explain and facilitate your absence at certain times to plan it. Should you aim to organise a consultant-led course, they may also be able to identify approachable senior colleagues. Depending on the scope of the course, your own consultant or postgraduate dean are good people to contact in the first instance. You will have to work around the availability of the other faculty, so set a date early. Liaise with potential delegates so as to avoid clashes such as MRCS examinations or university holidays. Local medical schools, Royal Colleges and hospital postgraduate medical education centres may also be able to assist you in terms of securing a venue. Your first course should be run as a pilot, so keeping costs down is also of key importance. Ask a colleague to observe or join in the pilot course in order to give you useful feedback from a delegate’s perspective.
You should work with your target audience and faculty to design an appropriate curriculum and programme for the course. Think about your learning objectives from the outset as these should underpin every aspect of the course’s design and delivery. ASiT have linked many of their courses to ISCP and Specialty curricula to make them as relevant and effective as possible. Be realistic in terms of content and how much you can expect to cover in the day. A handbook for the day can be useful to make sure all faculty are teaching to a standardised programme.
Sponsorship and resources
Industry support is often key to being able to source funding and resources. ASiT could not run its Core or Intermediate Laparoscopic Skills courses, for example, without the provision of laparoscopic stacks and instruments from industry. However, we have also been able to run courses with relatively few resources. Joseph Shalhoub Convenor of the Foundation Skills in Surgery Course, suggests “costs to delegates can be minimised, or ideally eliminated through the imaginative use of resources, for example using string rather than medical-grade suture material for knot tying, or baked potatoes, bananas or oranges rather than suture pads. Delegates often appreciate a high faculty to delegate ratio rather than use of expensive materials.”
Advertising and attendance
Advertising locally via email is your best option. Your Royal College or deanery may also be able to send out an email but not if it conflicts with other interests. Social media sites and posters may also be of use. It is important to charge one person with maintaining a delegate list. Many of ASiT’s courses are free to members, but we ask for a £50 cheque, returned on attendance to secure a place. You should have a contingency plan in place for no-shows and last-minute bookings.
Getting feedback and improving outcomes is important in surgical education as well as your clinical practice. Feedback forms should be carefully designed in advance and completed forms are typically exchanged for the delegate’s certificate of attendance. Your sponsors and faculty will require feedback for their records and portfolios, and the free text answers provide insight so you can improve and expand your course the next time you run it.
Ask ASiT – We’re here to help
ASiT has built up considerable expertise in recent years through the piloting and production of several new courses. If you have a good course idea, please get in touch. We can offer advice, and have small grants available by application to help with basic start-up fees. More than one course proposed in this way has now been officially badged as an ASiT course and runs annually at the conference.
Dr Justice Reilly, ASiT Publicity Officer