David Ryan, Neurosurgery elective

Hospital, Location: Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh, EH4  2XU, Scotland.

Supervisor: Professor IR Whittle. Professor of Surgical Neurology.

Contact person (if different from above): Electives in any speciality in Edinburgh are arranged through the University of Edinburgh. The following link clearly outlines all the steps in the application process.

Application Pack

Main Activities including Practical Aspect: The day begins at 8am with the pre-operative surgical rounds. All patients must be seen by 8.45am. At  8.45am the Radiology meeting take place. Here the consultant neurosurgeons and consultant  neuroradiologists discuss recent scans and decide on the best management plan. Following this meeting you either go to theatre, outpatients or the ward. In outpatients you sit in on all consultations and discuss the cases with the consultant.  In theatre you get to watch all cases and on occasions you may get to scrub in and assist. Due to the nature of the procedures performed by neurosurgeons don’t expect to be allowed to do much. On the ward the SHO’s are often laden with cases so there is much opportunity to take histories and exam patients, which are then presented to the house officers. On certain days the consultants arrange teaching for the registrars and house officers which is well worth attending. The material is often far over your head but you always pick up interesting little pieces of information. The day ends at 5pm.

Advantages: The atmosphere is quite laid back and they allow you to control your own elective experience. If you want to learn you will and vice versa. All the staff were very approachable and helpful and always willing to explain and teach. One of the best features of my neurosurgical elective was the diversity of cases seen. In addition the surgery is breathtaking.

Disadvantages: I suppose in many ways the Irish and Scottish medical training are similar so as expected there is a lack of hands on experience. As neurosurgery is so specialised having a baseline knowledge will be afford you the most benefit from this elective however even if you don’t have a lot of knowledge in the field you will pick things up rather fast. If you are considering neurosurgery at a post graduate level and have a burning desire in the field, then seriously consider this elective.

Life outside the Hospital: Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a vibrant nightlife and lots to see and do. There are plenty of tourist things to do and it is relatively cheap. As cities go Edinburgh is safe but there are a few dodgy districts, which on one occasion following a wrong bus I ended up in, wearing a suit I might add! I won’t say much more but following a frightening encounter I escaped safely! All in all a great city. Be sure to visit the Irish pub ‘Finnegan’s Wake’

Most Memorable Moment(s): Has to be seeing a patient go into cardiac arrest on the operating table in the middle of a nine-hour skull base procedure. It happened so fast after the surgeon was working in the vicinity of the jugular bulb. The patient recovered fully following external compressions. How calm the theatre staff remained was quite amazing.

Would you recommend this elective to others? Yes, for those of you interested in neurosurgery or for those of you just curious! A worthwhile experience.

Tips & How to Organize this Rotation: It is not difficult to arrange this elective, as their Elective Coordinator in the medical school is absolutely excellent. The link I provided at the top of the document takes you by the hand through the application process and informs you of accommodation services also. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact me.