Soon after its appearance, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) became a pandemic, with over 111 million cases reported and 2.4 million deaths worldwide. Although the focus of public health systems must lie on patients’ care and treatment, SARS-COV‑2 infection has also affected surgical trainees in their academic and professional development, causing significant disruption in all forms of their training.
The aims of this study were firstly to assess the impact of SARS-CoV‑2 on core surgical training, regarding operative, educational and academic skills, as well as the general effect on psychological status and well-being of surgical trainees at a tertiary center in Greece. All core surgical trainees (17) in the general surgery department at the University Hospital of Patras were invited to participate in a voluntary anonymous survey via printed questionnaires.
Junior trainees and senior surgical trainees performed or assisted in almost 50% fewer cases in the COVID era when compared with the period reported before the virus. As far as courses, conferences and exams attended by trainees are concerned, a significant reduction in numbers (six vs 35) before and after the start of COVID-19 pandemic was apparent. In all, 10 (62.5%) trainees felt that their confidence in the operating theatre had been negatively impacted by the pandemic, while four (25%) trainees felt significant stress levels as a result of the national lockdown.
It is imperative for surgical educators to design and implement new alternative ways to assist surgical trainees in their education and also avoid their undertraining during the pandemic.