Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Hennessy2021_Article_RidingTheWavesTheOngoingImpact.pdf (1.13 MB)

Riding the waves: the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on a national surgical training cohort

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-03-16, 15:10 authored by Orla Hennessy, Amy Lee Fowler, Emmeline Nugent, Conor Hennessy, David Brinkman, Aisling Hogan, Myles Joyce
Background: The World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on the 11 March 2020 resulting in implementation of methods to contain viral spread, including curtailment of all elective and non-emergent interventions. Many institutions have experienced changes in rostering practices and redeployment of trainees to non-surgical services. Examinations, study days, courses, and conferences have been cancelled. These changes have the potential to significantly impact the education and training of surgical trainees.
Aim: To investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on training, educational, and operative experiences of Irish surgical trainees.
Methods: Surgical trainees were surveyed anonymously regarding changes in working and educational practices since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2020. The survey was circulated in May 2020 to both core and higher RCSI surgical trainees, when restrictions were at level five. Questions included previous and current access to operative sessions as well as operative cases, previous and current educational activities, access to senior-led training, and access to simulation-/practical-based training methods. A repeat survey was carried out in October 2020 when restrictions were at level two.
Results: Overall, primary and secondary survey response rates were 29% (n = 98/340) and 19.1% (n = 65/340), respectively. At the time of circulation of the second survey, the number of operative sessions attended and cases performed had significantly improved to numbers experienced pre-pandemic (p < 0.0001). Exposure to formal teaching and education sessions returned to pre-COVID levels (p < 0.0001). Initially, 23% of trainees had an examination cancelled; 53% of these trainees have subsequently sat these examinations. Of note 27.7% had courses cancelled, and 97% of these had not been rescheduled.
Conclusion: Surgical training and education have been significantly impacted in light of COVID-19. This is likely to continue to fluctuate in line with subsequent waves. Significant efforts have to be made to enable trainees to meet educational and operative targets.


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The original article is available at

Published Citation

Hennessy O, et al. Riding the waves: the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on a national surgical training cohort. Ir J Med Sci. 2021:1–7.

Publication Date

27 August 2021

PubMed ID



  • Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery


Springer Nature


  • Published Version (Version of Record)