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Experts warn of possible shortage of trained surgeons due to Covid-19

2 mins read

By Oliver Wesolowski

COVID-19 could result in a shortage of experienced surgeons as fears about catching the virus from corpses has resulted in the suspension of a number of surgical training programmes across the country.

Trainee surgeons have used cadaveric patients to learn and develop key skills since the foundation of surgical colleges in the 1800s.

Dr Vanessa Kay, Co-Director at the Dundee Institute for Healthcare Simulation, in Tayside, said: “We had to close the Dundee Surgical Skills Centre again in November in view of Tayside being Tier 3 and public health advice.”

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a number of surgical training programmes to a temporary halt due to a perceived infection risk through direct contact from corpses, as well as through the release of retained virus particles as the cadaveric patient is filled with carbon dioxide to create working space for laparoscopic and robotic surgeons to complete minimally invasive surgery.

Trainee surgeons are also struggling to gain hands-on operating experience in hospitals as non-urgent surgeries have been postponed and cancelled, while fewer operations are being performed each day due to PPE requirements.

“There have been less training opportunities in operating theatres due to reduced elective surgery and increased workflow pressures. Without surgical simulation training, it’ll be difficult for trainees to progress in their careers, meaning a potential shortfall in consultant surgeons in the future,” Dr Kay said.

Senior clinicians are currently performing more procedures as a result of the additional demands being placed on hospitals, which is also making it more difficult for trainees to get much-needed hours at the operating table, James Rowland, Clinical Education Manager at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, explained.

“Trainees aren’t able to gain certain practical skills they need and it’s impossible to deliver high-quality practical teaching virtually. This has left a generation of junior medical staff effectively in limbo until restrictions are eased.”

Featured image credit: Oliver Wesolowski

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