Giving trainees ultimate patience

Sorcha Ni Dhubhghaill

Posted: Saturday, September 1, 2018

Making the transition from trainee to trainer poses a number of challenges, according to Dr Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill, anterior 
segment ophthalmic surgeon, at the Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium.
“As a trainee, you are always looking for another case, looking for all of your numbers, but as a trainer you shift very much to being a patient advocate and making sure that all of your training is performed very safely,” said Dr Ní Dhubhghaill.
“While the trainees may be very hungry and enthusiastic, the trainers can sometimes appear rigid and cold,” she said. “Bridging that divide is so important”
Dr Ní Dhubhghaill said that as a trainer she can empathise with the nervousness of her trainees, but she also has to allow her trainees freedom to learn from their mistakes while making sure that she is the guardian of her patients’ safety.
“I feel their nerves, but I’m also very aware that I have to sit on my own hands, because my instinct is to say ‘stop, I’ll take over’. Nobody will ever learn anything if you keep taking it 
out of their hands.
“Trainees will never be calm from the first surgery. That would be abnormal,” she said. “It’s a new challenge, but managing that stress is very important.”
When she was a trainee, said Dr Ní Dhubhghaill, one of her biggest challenges was learning how to focus on what she was doing, without distractions.
“You can spend a lot of time looking around at your other colleagues, but the reality is that you shouldn’t look outside,” she said. “You should look to your own trainer and your own skills and basically run your own race.”
Learning how to be a teacher also requires a new set of skills, says Dr Ní Dhubhghaill.
“It may be a set of skills that wasn’t covered in your own training. You have to learn patience and communication, but sometimes you also have to learn how to pick a trainee up from the ground if he or she feels devastated. Sometimes you need to tell them more about what they did well and less about what they did badly to make sure that they turn up to the next surgical session.”
Dr Ní Dhubhghaill says the characteristics of a good trainer are infinite patience and supportiveness.
“You get nowhere by making your trainee more stressed and you should never say: ‘Do it faster!’ That comes with time 
and experience.”

This article is based on an EuroTimes Eye Contact interview. See here for more: