A Day in the Life of an Ophthalmology Trainee

I am currently in 3rd year of my Ophthalmology training in Health Education England's north east Office.  In the last few years I have had placements in Sunderland, Darlington, Carlisle, and I’m now working in the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. 

As a registrar, I have 6-month sub-specialty rotations and therefore spend all of my time with a small number of consultants. A normal day for an ophthalmology trainee would be like the day I had yesterday. It started at 8-00am when I arrived to the hospital for a morning theatre session. There were six cataract operations on the theatre list. Together with the consultant, all patients are reviewed prior to going to theatre. We have a quick team briefing with the nurses and start the theatre list. The morning is spent on the operations, with my consultant doing the more difficult cases and I part or all of the more straightforward cases.  I completed one case start to finish, and did parts of the operation of three other patients.  We finish slightly early and I make use of the eye surgery simulator which we have in Newcastle. This is a virtual reality simulator for cataract surgery and an excellent resource to improve your skills. We also have access to a vireo-retinal surgery simulator and will be making use of this during my vitreo-retinal rotation.

I then have lunch and head down to the outpatients department to start clinic at 13.30. Today’s clinic is a mix of glaucoma and cornea patients. Among the patients seen is an inpatient who had been admitted with a cornel ulcer. Another was a post-operative patient who had a corneal graft carried out a few days ago. I also see a few patients with stable glaucoma and corneal pathology. A big change compared to foundation training is the amount of teaching and one-on-one time with consultants you get as an ophthalmology trainee. There is a constant development in your clinical and surgical skills as you progress through your training.  The clinic is busy but we manage to finish by 5.30. I dictate my notes and leave around 5.45.

I generally play squash 3 or 4 times a week and at the minute I’m captain of one of the local squash teams that play in the north east regional leagues. Tonight I’ve got a squash match against another team. My generally successful day ends with a poor performance and a miserable defeat.

During a normal week, as trainees we get 2 RSTA (research, study, teaching and audit) mornings or afternoon sessions a week. This gives trainees time to study for exams, teach medical students and carry out research and projects. We also get teaching every Wednesday afternoon, with the different sub-specialties presenting on a given day in turn, including invited and renowned speakers. The trainees also get opportunities to present. In addition to the normal work week, we also have on-call shifts. This consists of a 24 hour on-call period where the registrar deals with phone calls from GPs, walk-in centres and other hospitals in the area. The doctor on-call does their normal 9-5 clinics/theatre sessions and then covers emergency cases in the evening and until the next morning. This is a busy, and at times, stressful part of the job but also an opportunity to learn and see interesting cases. This could be a regular timetabled session during the week or depending on which unit you are in, on calls can range from 1 in 5 to 1 in 11. At Newcastle there are good number of trainees, so on-calls are less frequent. In other regions the on-call sessions are more often but the intensity can vary a lot. Registrars also have timetabled sessions in eye casualty; this is an ideal opportunity to develop your clinical and diagnostic skills and we are well supported with seniors and nursing staff.

The North East offers the perfect balance of work, life and play.