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Against the clock

Residents face a tougher time in their training career than ever before due to COVID-19

Sorcha Ni Dhubhghaill

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2020

Allow me to add my entry to the long list of things that have gotten more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic: Being a resident.

Granted, it was never an easy job to begin with. The long hours, late surgeries and weekends on call are challenging at the best of times. But at least you had ample opportunity to grow and learn as a clinician.

Fast-forward to today; Clinic numbers have been cut down in a lot of places and elective surgeries have slowed to a crawl. Meeting numbers are restricted, and not every centre has set up elearning alternatives. Conferences and exams are being cancelled, and it’s not clear whether those planned for the autumn will even be able to go ahead.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking for the residents. These months without teaching are adding up. Even in a multi-year training scheme, a couple of months is a significant proportion of the teaching time.

And while we can’t change what we can’t change, we can still make efforts to preempt a shortage on training experience. Below is a curated list of some of the best (and free) educational resources out there to help you at whatever level you need.

While there are a lot of MCQ practice banks you can purchase to help you prepare for exams, the absolutely legendary Chua mrcophth.com page is always worth a visit. The appearance of this page has not changed since I was in med school but don’t let that fool you. This is a fantastic exam preparation site. Some of the clinical data may be a bit out of date but clinical signs and the volume of the available MCQs is fantastic.

If you are earlier on in your training, Tim Root — the “virtual eye professor” — hosts a library of clinical examination video lectures on timroot.com. The optics and retinoscopy sections are particularly useful for first year residency exams.

Most societies have stores of educational materials, and often provide free membership to trainees. ESCRS and Euretina are both free for three years of training and have eLearning platforms and on-demand videos of previous conferences presentations.

With a little bit more time on your hands, you may be expected to finish that research article or case report that your consultant or supervisor has been bugging you about. But how? There is nothing more intimidating than an empty page. Thankfully Hoogenboom and Manske are here to help. In their excellent paper “How to write a scientific article”, they offer practical tips and guidelines to target your efforts — and it’s open access.

Once your basic text is completed, try to refine it to make it a really excellent paper. Veronice Gerwin on Nature.com picked the brains of six research experts and presented them in a great article called “How to write a first-class paper”.

There has been a huge spike in the availability of high-quality teaching webinars since the beginning of the lockdown. How do you find them? Look on social media — LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook — and you should be able to find an interesting offer. They are usually run at about 7 or 8pm so you can relax and have a glass of wine in the comfort of your own home while you learn.

Of course, Youtube and Eyetube have a lot of videos available. The Moran eye centre from the University of Utah has an incredible library of presentations and surgeries on their MoranCore youtube channel. There are currently 977 videos stored there. The resident lectures in particular are great to watch.

If you are still looking for more, there are two podcasts in the field that you might want to check out. The Eyes for Ears podcast is run by two ophthalmologists, Ben Young and Andrew Pouw, who met during their ophthalmology residencies in Yale. Their episodes cover a lot, from retinopathies to aniridia, and are perfect listening for a commute to work. For the posterior segment specialists, the retina podcast “Straight from the cutter’s mouth” is already up to episode 236 and covers not only medical and surgical retina but also provides a lot of advice about career and practice development.

My final tip is a free ebook called Diabetic Retinopathy for the Comprehensive Ophthalmologist, available at drcobook.com. This book might be the most informative and hilarious take on managing diabetic retina patients. The jokes make the text light and fun for a topic that can sometimes be really taxing. With chapter titles like “Just How Often Do You Have to Drag Them Back, Anyway?” this book is as readable as it is useful.

Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill MB PhD MRCSI(Ophth) FEBO is an Anterior Segment Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery (NIIOS) and Antwerp University Hospital