1. Summary

The Spine Centre offers a unique training opportunity for a newly qualified orthopaedic or neurosurgeon wanting to pursue a career in spinal surgery. The surgeon will be appointed for a 1-year fixed term contract on a full-time basis. S/he will work and train under the supervision of the Spine Centre’s surgeons. The trainee surgeon will be introduced to a wide range of clinical and surgical skills necessary to address numerous spinal conditions.

2. Aim

The aim of the program is to prepare a young orthopaedic or neurosurgeon for clinical practice with a focus on spinal surgery. Firstly, the surgeon’s proficiency in the diagnosis of common spinal conditions will be honed. In time, s/he will become comfortable and familiar with the conservative treatment modalities available for spinal conditions. Secondly, the trainee needs to master certain basic surgical procedures such as the placement of pedicle screws, lumbar discectomies, simple posterior lumbar fusions and anterior neck fusions. Gradually, more complex surgical procedures will be introduced with the surgeon garnering valuable theatre experience.

3. Training program

3.1. Patient assessment

The trainee surgeon, aided be a Spine Centre specialist, will consult with new patients and do follow-up post-operative visits all the while gaining valuable experience in the presentation and diagnosis of common spinal conditions.

3.2. Imaging assessment

The trainee surgeon will be afforded the opportunity to critically evaluate the spinal imaging of consulted patients. The interpretation of MRI and CT imaging form an important part in informing accurate diagnoses of patients’ conditions.

3.3. Treatment decision making

Deciding on the appropriate treatment plan is arguably the most difficult skill to master in the discipline of spinal surgery. Many treatment options are available, both invasive and non-invasive. The decision as to the appropriateness of a surgical approach needs to be carefully considered. The trainee surgeon will benefit from the vast experience of Spine Centre’s surgeons who will facilitate him/her becoming a rounded and responsible surgeon.

3.4. Surgical techniques

The trainee surgeon will daily assist in theatre with the execution of spinal surgery procedures. These procedures include minimally invasive spinal procedures, endoscopic procedures, anterior and posterior lumbar fusions and cervical procedures. As the surgeon’s skill level increases, s/he will be given the opportunity to perform certain procedures under supervision to master techniques.

4. Current trainee experience

Dr Hein Verhoef – Orthopaedic Surgeon

I started my training at the Spine Centre 6 months ago. I have had the opportunity to put all the theory, that I spent years studying, into practice. I participate in several surgical cases each week, while getting hands on training with the latest techniques, instruments and technologies in spinal surgery. I have started to build a solid skill set and I am becoming more confident to manage a wide variety of spinal pathologies.

At the Spine Centre, I am exposed to the subtle nuances surrounding elective spinal surgery. I found immense value in always having a second and a third opinion at hand when dealing with challenging cases. I have gained valuable insight from the weekly pre-operative planning meetings where all surgical cases for the week are discussed. The work environment is friendly and supportive, and it was easy to become part of this fully digitalized and paperless practice.

I look forward to the rest of my training and I am confident that it will lay the foundation upon which I can build a successful practice of my own.