Here are our 6 top tips for tackling the prioritisation station:
1) Keep an eye on timing: timing is crucial in this station. Remember there are two parts..information gathering and information delivery. As a rough guide you should leave half the time for each, with some time in between to collect your thoughts. From our experience, most candidates overrun in the information gathering stage. Ways to avoid this are to ask focussed questions and only extract the information that is essential to your decision making. Don't get distracted by non urgent cases.
2) Read the introduction carefully: certain features of the station description will impact your decision making. For example: What day of the week is it (i.e. weekday vs weekend operating)? Are you in a DGH or MTC (important for open fractures)? How long is the trauma list (gives you an idea of how many cases you can fit in)? And so forth...
3) Write things down: assuming you will be allowed to use a pen and paper as in previous years, you need to write clear and concise notes. We advise drawing a table and classifying the cases based on urgency (and between yourself and the SHO). Write numbers next to the cases corresponding to your list order.
4) Patient safety is key: being safe and recognising emergencies is the key to both passing and excelling in this station. Present urgent cases first, and demonstrate a safe and decisive management plan, for example with compartment syndrome and pale/pulseless supracondylar fracture etc. Know your competencies as an ST3 and don't hesitate to ask the consultant to come in if overnight operating is necessitated.
5) Show case your knowledge: use your clinical knowledge and guidelines to explain your decision making to the consultant . For example, BOAST guidelines in open fractures, BPT for NOF etc. There are likely to be diabetic patients and dirty cases, which you need to acknowledge when planning your list.
6) Demonstrate problem solving: a common spanner thrown into the works is 'your SHO is off sick' or 'you only have x-ray for the afternoon'. Rather than simply repeating this to your consultant, showcase your managerial skills by offering a solution. For example, "the SHO has called in sick. I have informed the site manager and requested if another surgical SHO is able to offer support"..or along those lines. Don't put the onus on the consultant to solve the problem.
As always...lots of practice is recommended!