Training and development (cardiothoracic surgery)

This page provides useful information on the training and development for this specialty and also has tips for people at all stages of their career including medical school.   

Cardiothoracic surgery training

Training to be a cardiothoracic surgeon involves core training (CT) and specialty training (ST). If entry is at CT1, core training forms the first two years. If applying for ST3 entry, there is an expectation that this will have been preceded by two years of core-training (CT1-2).

Core surgical training CT1-2 or ST1-2 lasts two years and provides training in hospitals in a range of surgical specialties. Six months should be in cardiothoracic surgery. During the first two years of your training you must pass the examination to give you membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).

Specialty cardiothoracic training (ST3-8) lasts between six and eight years, although this can vary according to individual circumstances. During this time you will be employed as a specialty trainee.

At the end of this training you can then apply for consultant posts. However, before you can do this you must take further examinations leading to specialty fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. To work in the UK as a consultant you need a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). Many people proceed to a senior fellowship position or locum consultant position to get more protected senior experience before taking on a permanent consultant position.

Getting in tips

The Oriel website has detailed information on entry requirement, including the person specifications for ST1 and ST3 training in cardiothoracic surgery.

As cardiothoracic surgery (and surgery in general) is so competitive, it is important to develop your practical skills and interest in surgery as early as you can. This will also give you valuable experience to add to your CV. Here are some suggestions for people at different stages of their career:

    • make contact with surgeons in your hospital - offer to help in any way possible and find out if they are involved with any research that you could get involved with
    • attend courses such as those offered by the Royal College of Surgeons, RSM and SCTS – topics include surgical skills, interview skills for core surgical training and career-planning
    • choose an audit project related to surgery
    • ensure your e-portfolio has plenty of surgery evidence and that this is kept properly up to date
    • try to gain teaching and management experience
    • study for the examinations for the membership of your chosen Royal College
    • continue to develop your practical and academic expertise
    • undertake a research project
    • try to get some of your work published and present at national and international meetings
    • join or start a Journal Club (a group who meet to critically evaluate academic research)
    • teach junior colleagues
    • take on any management opportunities you are offered
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