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Out of Programme Experience

As an UK urology trainee, you may wish to spend a period of time abroad. This can be taken as an out-of-programme-experience (OOPE).

If you wish to take this option, you must seek approval from your Deanery and your Training Programme Director first, and you should allow plenty of time for any deliberations which may be needed. Your OOPE is more likely to be successful if you set clear aims and objectives before your departure.


Further information about OOPEs (and returning from them) can be found below:

SOURCE LINK(S)
Joint Committee on Surgical Training Out of Programme Training and
Return to Work Guidance
The Gold Guide 2017 Information for trainees
Royal College of Surgeons Guidance on OOPEs
Taking time out of training British Medical Journal
Alexandra Zachou's 2015 OOPE in Tanzania & Senegal Read Alexandra's detailed report
Dora Moon's 2011 OOPE in Burlington, Vermont USA Summary below:

“ ... Taking a step away from medicine to pursue something different can be a daunting experience, and one that many people don’t ever consider for fear of the effects it may have on their career path in Urology. I wanted to share my experience, in order to show the many benefits that OOPEs can have, both personally and professionally.

In 2011, whilst a core trainee in general surgery, I made a bold decision to leave medicine and head to the USA.  I had enjoyed surgery, but was wondering if there was something else out there to experience beyond the endless slog of exams and training. But where to start? In my case, I knew a post-doctoral fellow who had worked in a laboratory in the USA.  I did some research and the head of surgery at the adjacent university hospital, also ran a lab in the same building.  Several emails later and I flew out to Burlington, Vermont to be interviewed for a research associate post. To my delight I was successful and after some faffing with visas I started the job in the March of that year.

I spent 16 months in total in Vermont, it is a period of time that I remember well and I am so thankful that I was given such an opportunity.  I worked for the head of surgery running my own experiments; I was my own boss, which was an entirely new experience, but a great lesson in time management.  I learned a whole new technical skill set, sometimes by trial and error and often by seeking out experts within the university.  My research earned me a first author paper, and an international presentation in Las Vegas.  In addition to that, being an employee of the university, I was able to take advantage of free class credits to take a Post Graduate Certificate in clinical and translational research.  This was an incredibly valuable course that still is as relevant as ever to my work today.

I also had opportunity to meet post docs, surgery residents, histopathologists, emergency doctors and understand what it is like to work in medicine in the US.  I travelled as much as possible, visiting Portland, New York, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto to name only a few. In the winters, I learned how to ski and snowshoe and, in summer, I cycled, kayaked, swam in freshwater lakes and hiked up the many mountains Vermont has to offer.  I also got to see the natural wonder of a New England autumn leaf season. 

When I returned, I re-interviewed for core training and have never looked back. The experience of stepping away from medicine actually renewed my passion for it, and I would encourage anyone considering such a move to do the same.  The academic slog of medical school and post-graduate training can sometimes feel like you are on an endless conveyer belt.  

Leaving medicine doesn’t mean walking away from your career and profession. In fact, it can be a life-changing experience that can serve to make you an even better urologist ...