Researching as a trainee

Mr Kapil Sugand

Now that you have secured a six-year contract to eventually pass out as a Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon, it is imperative that you take your time during training and consider your contribution to the wider field outside of the clinical arena. More than being bound by a professional duty and jumping through hoops to advance to the next stage of your training, you genuinely have the opportunity to make a positive impact through research, auditing and quality improvement projects. Not only will this expand your horizons, increase the depth of knowledge, prepare you for your consultancy, but it would also add to your job satisfaction as your work carries the potential to enhance patient care while upholding patient safety. While not every trainee does have an interest in clinical governance and research, it is still a requirement of your CCT to have contributed to the medical literature and to your department who have invested in your training.

The usual reason for hesitancy to involve oneself within research is to do with the lack of exposure to it beforehand. Many feel an insufficient guidance on how to conduct research, publish and disseminate the findings. In fact, due to the volume of resources available within the deanery and associated institutions as well as the number of journals continuing to grow steadily, it is easier to publish now than ever before. Much like what it takes to be a consultant surgeon, research too requires practice, coping with rejection and reflecting from experiences.

No matter what your interest, there are always unanswered questions that need to be explored and shared with the world. If you are new to research, there are numerous ways to get involved and learn about the process. It is also crucial that you invest your time wisely and to research matters that interest you. You should be happy to represent that body of work throughout your career, especially any topics of contention. Nevertheless, your role in research will also allow both diversity and versatility of your skillset, your portfolio and your clinical practice.

Here are top ten tips of what to consider in research:

1.     Identify your research lead within the department or a consultant who shares the same interests as you. Ask them if you can get involved in any ongoing projects. What is even better is if you approach them with your ideas and ask them to supervise you. You will have a sense of accountability and responsibility as a result.

2.     Identify a collaborative which is looking for contributors and projects to further their cause. Since collaboratives tend to have multiple research projects on the go at any one time, declare your interest in assisting them to shape a particular project. The more you involve yourself, the more credit you deserve on the publication while also fostering a healthy working relationship with a network of people in the same boat as you. This also lends itself to future research opportunities. Our regional trainee collaborative is called I-TRAC ( 

3.     If you are ever stuck on ideas or need inspiration, remember that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. As you read around a subject, you will become more inquisitive and ask relevant questions that may not have already been addressed within the literature.

4.     It would be worth your while if you stick around for the entire process of identifying a research question, coming up with a hypothesis, compiling a methodology, obtaining any relevant ethical approval if required, and collecting data before analysing and writing up your manuscript.

5.     Remember that each research project carries the potential not only for a publication but also for a conference presentation, where again you will meet a group of interdisciplinary colleagues who may still share your interest and help you to take your work to the next step. It is certainly exciting to be able to network and collaborate to improve the quality of your work as well as disseminating your findings. Your work could ultimately impact on patient care, shape clinical practice and create guidance on a wider scale.

6.     There is also much potential in what started off as a single research project out of interest, which may then lead to opportunities such as pursuing a higher degree including a Masters, MD or PhD.

7.     Not all research has to be in the form of a publication or presentation. You will also be acknowledged for your contribution to other educational material such as contributing a chapter to a book or organising formal teaching with feedback.

8.     The aim is to produce a manuscript that can be of high enough standard to publish in a PubMed/MedLine-indexed journal. Level of evidence also matters since case reports do not count as publications for your CCT. A good place to start doing some research is a review of the literature which may qualify as a publication in its own right as well as forming the basis of your prospective/retrospective research.

9.     If you struggle with conducting or publishing your research project, even recruiting 5 patients to a study is equivalent and recognised for your CCT.

10.  There are plenty of opportunities to specialise your research in lab-based projects and within the basic sciences, but it is always easier to conduct clinical research

Share this page: