I developed an interest in Plastic Surgery back when I was a 3rd year medical student during my 4-week SSC (Selected Student Component) project which I performed my first ever minor surgery case. I sought to gain further insight into the specialty by opting to do my electives, taster weeks in the specialty as well as spending my time observing and assisting in plastic surgery cases during my time as a foundation year doctor. I then completed my core surgical training at North Western Deanery. This was a themed plastic surgery track providing 18 months’ training in plastic surgery with the remainder 6 months in an affiliated specialty, which was either General Surgery or Hand Surgery. It was a great privilege to have 18 months’ worth of surgical experience dedicated to plastic surgery as this proved invaluable towards preparation for national ST3 applications.
Although competition ratio for ST3 entry into Plastic Surgery has improved from 7:1 in 2010 to 3.73:1 in 2017, it is still highly competitive. The 2017 competition ratio ranks the specialty third out of ten surgical specialties, behind Cardiothoracic Surgery (4.6:1) and Paediatric Surgery (4.08:1). The margin for error is small, thus, it is unsurprising that the majority of core surgical trainees are unsuccessful in obtaining a national training number on their first attempt.
As such was my case! The period right after I was found appointable but not ranked highly enough to be successful on my first try proved to be challenging. It was not only difficult to keep my motivation and morale going, it was also hard to identify what I could have or should have done differently during my preparation for the national applications. During this time, I took up a LAS (locum appointment for service) Registrar job in Plastic Surgery after completing my CST training. The experience helped consolidate my past surgical experiences and gave me much needed confidence.
As a result, I was successful in my second attempt and was matched to my top choice deanery. It certainly felt like a very long time to be working hard and being persistent in the pursuit of a singular goal since medical school. I have been fortunate to have met enthusiastic plastic surgery trainers and registrars who were not only encouraging but acted as mentors to myself. It has been an incredibly enjoyable journey and I still look forward to going into work every day. I am well aware that this is just the beginning, but it will only get better! It really is not the end of the world if you don’t get the job the first time round, good things come to those who work hard and not give up!