Q- How has the extended surgical team changed over the last 18 months?
CA The Extended Surgical Team refers to advanced practitioners in surgery who are undertaking clinical roles which traditionally have been carried out by the medical profession. These roles are increasingly important and greatly supported by the Surgical Colleges. Advanced practitioners such as Surgical Care Practitioners (SCP) are largely from a nursing background and although specifically trained with extended skills similar to a junior surgical trainee, their flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances such as the Covid pandemic has been particularly valuable. This was addressed in a webinar and a subsequent survey, The Effects of Covid -19 on Non-Medical Practitioners in Surgery.
SH The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has demonstrated how practitioners working within the Extended Surgical Team have been able to work flexibly in support of patient care. Practitioners have been utilised in a variety of ways, with SFAs in the independent sector helping to meet the needs of patients undergoing elective surgery in their hospitals whilst those in the NHS worked flexibly to meet departmental needs. SCPs and other advanced practitioners were able to free up junior doctors by undertaking routine tasks. These activities are supported by the education such practitioners are required to undertake. During this time there has also been the publication of an educational framework for Advanced Clinical Practitioners working within surgery.
Q- Why do you think it’s important to have a conference specifically focused on education, research and governance?
CA This conference is focusing on Education, Research and Governance as although advanced practitioners’ groups are undertaking these extended roles they must be trained and regulated to the same standard as the young surgical trainee. The training and assessment standards must be equivalent, and this conference will be updating delegates on the most recent developments in postgraduate curricula, with particular focus on the Surgical First Assistant (SFA), Advanced Clinical Practitioner (SACP), Surgical Care Practitioner (SCP) and the Physician Associate (PA) working in a surgical specialty.
There also needs to be clear guidance on the governance and accountability from the Surgical Colleges and Specialty Associations working with Health Education England (HEE) and the regulatory bodies. Research is one of the four pillars of Advanced Practice as defined by HEE and this conference is an opportunity for advanced practitioners to submit poster presentations for one of the sessions. This was stimulated by two excellent webinars in the summer, on the involvement of non-medical practitioners in research delivered by our colleagues at the NIHR Incubator for Advanced Surgical Technology.
SH The conference is an opportunity for non-medical practitioners who are part of the EST, and those aspiring to such roles to gain an understanding of the educational resources that are available. Education for a role contributes to patient safety and enables practitioners to meet the expectations of their regulatory body. Many colleagues feel that research is not for them, however, as the recent FPC podcasts have demonstrated, there are resources in practice to help them get started. The conference will provide a forum for anyone who has undertaken research over recent months to contribute a poster. This year it has been decided that we will offer the authors of high scoring abstracts the opportunity to give a short, ‘live’ podium presentation so that they can share their research project’s findings.
Q- What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?
CA Some of the presentations at the conference will be new developments which will be aired nationally for the first time. The feedback from the practitioners themselves on the day and subsequently will be interesting, as the talks which have been chosen and delivered by experts in their field will influence the future developments of this workforce.
SH I am really looking forward to helping to showcase some of the research projects that attendees have undertaken. All too often this material sits on a computer once it has been submitted for marking (if it’s been an academic assignment) or presented internally if it’s been an audit. The non-medically qualified surgical assistant community needs to publish and it’s exciting to be able to provide an opportunity for this to happen.
Q- What is the most important thing you would like attendees to take away from the conference?
CA One of the most important things is to recognise that the Surgical Colleges, Specialty Associations, HEIs are working closely together and that there is great support from HEE for this extended workforce in surgery. RCSEd and RCSEng are also engaging with the regulatory bodies to ensure the highest standards of practice are maintained. I would hope that attendees will be confident that these organisations represented today will be doing their upmost to progress their careers.
SH Whilst I am excited about the research aspect of the conference, I feel that it’s important that attendees take away a sense of the work that the surgical Royal Colleges have been undertaking on their behalf. The bi-collegiate initiative being undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Royal College of Surgeons of England will, I hope, demonstrate to practitioners that they are being heard and that significant work has been undertaken, quietly, in the background, to improve both education and governance of these roles.
Q- How will attending this conference contribute to the attendee’s career?
The conference will provide attendees with role relevant continuing professional development hours, an opportunity to network, albeit virtually, using the conference ‘chat’ facility and an overview of what is still to come in their professional world.
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