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Supporting ophthalmology trainees back into the training programme during the pandemic

2 June 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists recognises the need to support a return to normal training and limit any further disruption. The Ophthalmologists in Training Group (OTG), working with the RCOphth, has produced a framework of recommendations, the Training Programme Recovery Recommendations, to help deal with this evolving and complex situation. The recommendations cover aspects of training that should be safeguarded during recovery of ophthalmology services and empowers trainees to take responsibility for their own learning.

The College urges trainees to make the most of the limited learning opportunities available, for example using cases from eye casualty to consolidate evidence-based approaches to acute eye emergencies, or utilising the challenges presented by redeployment to reflect on leadership and management competencies gained. There is an abundance of learning resources available online, from virtual simulators through to videos on surgical techniques. All of these resources should be utilised along with the latest guidelines and evidence from RCOphth to strengthen trainees’ knowledge.

The OTG document sets out core recommendations to ensure that all trainees are supported during this challenging period in the following areas:

  • Mental health and well-being
  • Scheduling of timetables
  • Simulation and surgery
  • Remote teaching
  • Progression of training
  • Academic training

Speaking on the OTG training recommendations, RCOphth OTG Chair Varo Kirthi said:

‘COVID-19 has created challenges for all of us on both personal and professional levels. Ophthalmology is no different and our trainees have been highly commended for stepping up to redeployment across the country when needed, without hesitation.

‘Recovery of training now remains the major challenge for trainees and trainers, particularly with regard to surgery. Despite this, we have continued to innovate as a specialty, from remote learning to online simulation galleries.

‘The emphasis is on each trainee to take ownership of his or her learning and to make the most of every opportunity available both locally and nationally. The OTG has worked extensively with College to recommend safeguards for training and we hope this document provides the necessary guidance to create a constructive learning environment. As always, we are keen to hear about local issues and examples of best practice, so please do get in touch with us via [email protected].’

Also commenting on the OTG recommendations, RCOphth Training Committee Chair Fiona Spencer said:

‘Creating the right environment for the recovery of training will be a further challenge for all trainers. It is going to be difficult for clinicians to restart routine ophthalmology services and review the backlog of patients due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but we must encourage them to consider and include trainees in their plans. The College will be working with Deaneries, through Heads of School and Training Programme Directors, to support trainers in maintaining the emphasis on training and to provide support for all our trainees so that they can continue to develop their skills and flourish despite the challenges ahead.

Read the Training Programme Recovery Recommendations.

On the 3 June, a letter from the Academy and the four UK education authorities was published the health service setting out the need to ensure that training is reinstated effectively.  https://www.hee.nhs.uk/coronavirus-information-trainees