Surgical consent form on clipboard with pen and stethoscope adjacent
My MD project was originally designed to look at how junior doctors, specifically surgical SRMOs, understood surgical and medical consent. I was allocated to the Surgical Education group at Central Clinical School and worked with my supervisor to create a project that used his anecdotal evidence – amassed during his time as the interviewer for prospective surgical SRMOs at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital – as the framework for a larger project. His main concern was that junior doctors were generally not sufficiently educated about medical and surgical consent, and he thought that surgical SRMOs would be a good study group to illustrate this issue.

Initially, the project was designed using interview responses from SRMOs at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, which I had planned to analyse using qualitative analysis techniques. However, while it received ethics approval from the local health district, it was refused approval by NSW Health due to the risk that interviewees could have been unduly stressed by the presence of an additional person in their high-stakes employment interview. As a result, my project has now morphed into a report that looks at the different stakeholders in the approval process and the ethical implications of the initial study.

Although my MD project has now changed significantly from its initial design, it has been a great learning experience (although not necessarily in the ways that I had expected). I’ve got a much better idea now of what it takes to independently design a research project and have made contacts within RPA’s Department of Surgery – as well as in the ethics office, which is just as important! It was also an unexpectedly good way to learn about the interview process for SRMO positions and what junior doctors at that level are expected to know.

I’d strongly recommend anyone interested in a surgical career to nominate a surgical MD topic. Even if on the surface it doesn’t seem like a traditionally ‘surgical’ project (i.e. like mine, which does not focus on technical surgery or quantitative data), you will acquire important skills and can connect with people in your field of interest.

By Josephine de Costa, Stage 3 Year 3 (2017)