Azeem Mustafa Sher
The Introduction to Ophthalmic Surgery Course is a popular course delivered by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) (1). This one-day course is delivered on the RCOphth site in London and is aimed at medical students, foundation doctors, trainee doctors and overseas/SAS/Trust grade doctors. The course runs a few times a year and spaces are limited meaning the course gets booked up very quickly. Prior to the course, candidates are given access to a number of e-learning modules. However, only three modules need completion, in addition to attendance on the day for a certificate to be awarded.
I attended the course in September 2022. The course was beneficial for me as it allowed me to gain hands-on experience using the microscope, working with ophthalmic instruments, and familiarising myself with common ophthalmological surgical techniques. The course has in the past contributed 1 point towards the ST1 Ophthalmology portfolio – the latest version of the Ophthalmology ST1 evidence folder states 1 point will be awarded for ‘Evidence of other ophthalmology simulation training’ (2). The course also incorporates spending time on the EyeSi surgical simulator. Having the opportunity to use the EyeSi is beneficial for trainees as they need to complete the available modules throughout their training, whilst those doctors/students wanting to apply for Ophthalmology training, completing 4 hours on the simulator also contributes 1 point towards the portfolio.
The course focuses on the practical aspects of ophthalmology. The course begins with an explanation of the sutures and instruments used in ophthalmic surgery and a demonstration of different surgical knots. Knowledge of suture material and instrumentation is covered in the e-learning content sent out before the course. Attendees are encouraged to practice the surgical knot tying using string and suturing on foam boards with the Consultant/Higher trainee Ophthalmologists on-hand to supervise/assist the attendees. This also gives the attendee an opportunity to discuss current/future career plans and learn about the supervisors’ sub-specialties.
The first session is Oculoplastic-based and involves eyelid suturing using a model that mimics the different layers of the eyelid with the aim of aligning the incision of the lid margin. The second session focusses on strabismus surgery and begins with a demonstration by of the Consultant Ophthalmologists followed by the delegates attempting to repeat the process using a foam model that mimics the scleral and rectus muscles. A video of the steps to this procedure are also available on the pre-session e-learning nevertheless, I found it to be the most difficult of all the sessions.
The next session introduces the microscope and how to make corneal incisions and subsequently suture these. Working the microscope and the model cornea (a model eye is used which can be taken home for further practise later) really tests one’s hand-eye co-ordination and makes you appreciate the fine margins and dexterity of Ophthalmologists. Delegates are called throughout the day to spend 15 minutes on the EyeSi. Familiarising yourself with the simulator allows you to book further EyeSi sessions at the RCOphth site without the need for someone to supervise you.
Whilst the course is expensive (£355), some FY2 doctors have been able to get the fee covered by their deaneries from the education budget, so please check if you are eligible for this, especially if you are undecided on pursuing Ophthalmology training. The course, itself, ran smoothly with lunch provided (dietary requirements are catered for). It also provided an opportunity to network with other professionals both junior and senior. Lastly, the trainers offered advice on how to prepare your portfolio and how to make the most of ophthalmology training.