Lacing up for neurosurgery rookie camp
NSHA event prepares Canada’s neurosurgery residents for their upcoming six year residency
(See photo gallery HERE)
While the NHL gears up for its rookie training camps later in the summer, a different group of rookies are suited up for a very different but just as exciting career –neurosurgery.
While hockey rookies lace up their ice skates and suit up, these new doctors don scrubs and lace many sutures in preparation for their training in hospitals across the country.
“This camp is important for our residents. It gives them the opportunity to practise in a simulated hospital environment, with real-life scenarios and simulated patients that are both mechanized and from the human body donation program,” said Dr. Sean Barry, Halifax neurosurgeon and local boot camp organizer.
“The residents are given these two days to ask questions, make mistakes without negative consequences, to learn, and connect with their colleagues and mentors. It’s very hands on.”
Neurosurgery Residency Rookie Camp is in its sixth year. It began in Halifax at the former Capital District Health Authority and hosts residents and faculty from across the country. This year’s camp is hosting 18 residents – two local – as well as eight faculty members from Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton.
Having senior neurosurgeons teaching these hands-on procedures is invaluable to the class of colleagues who competed against each other for these highly sought-after residencies.
Dr. Ahmad Alsayegh came from McGill University in Montreal to attend boot camp.
“This program has helped many others who came before me,” he said. “I am relieved to get to learn the practical things that you can’t garner through studying alone – we need to practise them and have hands-on experience.
“Also, it’s good to have this time to get to know my colleagues across the country and to have the one-on-one mentorship with senior neuro-faculty.”
The mentorship component is easily identifiable.
Observing one skills lab, Nova Scotia Health Authority neurosurgeon Dr. Simon Walling guided students through every detail of setting up a ventricular drain with careful attention to detail. A group of seven residents and two sponsors intently focused on his instructions. The residents would learn about the procedure through a presentation, be presented with a patient scenario, view the demonstration, and then receive coaching through their own attempts.
Dr. Walling guided his group with every possible detail. “You have to know your reference points and be consistent. The nurse will ask for your output. You can use a millimetre of mercury or centimetre of water. Either is measured here on the gauge, but you must be clear about which it is you are measuring at all times.”
He took time to guide his learners through their future role, but also the roles and scenarios for everyone else involved with the procedure as well. This is very important, as once these residents are sent forward into their six years of residency, they will be expected to assist with these procedures and even perform them. Preparation and practice are necessary before moving on to living humans.
Sponsorship is another important element of the program, said Dr. Barry. While some consider it controversial to have sponsors too close to practice, Dr. Barry believes they are essential.
“Neurosurgery is highly technical with both drugs and equipment – without industry providing the support for these experiences, we would not be as effective. This is a good opportunity for them to see how doctors are trained on the equipment and they are a good resource for questions or any technical issues that may arise.”
In another room, a group of residents crowd around a surgeon seated at a table with surgical covering – closely mimicing a typical surgical field in the operating suite. The faculty member is demonstrating a lower lumbar puncture on a rubberized torso that looks very much like the human body. It has skin and a removable flap that shows the organs and tissue underneath.
This table is a case study of a patient who requires a lumbar puncture, After this demonstration and discussion of the risks and potential for harm in this procedure, the residents will practise the technique over and over until they feel confident that they will not injure the patient.
Both hockey players and neurosurgery rookies will require lots of practice. In hockey, a mistake or accident is likely to require a trip to a neurosurgeon – in which case, they will be in good hands.