“So you want to become a cardiothoracic consultant surgeon” Career Pathways 3

Blog Post by Mr Large, Cardiothoracic Consultant Surgeon

·         What does your speciality offer?             

Cardio-thoracic surgery offers an exceptional combination of medicine, physiology and delicate technical skills. It is one of the few surgical specialities which is truly reconstructive rather than ablative. It offers patients substantial improvements in quality of life and prognosis. It is probably one of the most evidence-based practices in medicine. CT surgery is a small surgical speciality with some 250 consultant in about 35 centres. It’s very well organised and it is closely monitored. Cardio-thoracic disease is changing with heart failure is on the rise along with patient age. With age comes atrial fibrillation and degenerative valve disorders.

  ·         What is the career pathway to consultant stage? Any academic routes (if relevant)?              

The career pathway to consultant is via FY stages and thence to ST1 and 2. Selection for career training comes in at ST3. It is complete at ST6. There is an academic route with a taster at ST1/2 stage and then the chance of an academic/clinical training at ST3 onwards. Academia is restricted to 4 units. There are concerns that the newly imposed 48 hour week will make training a challenge!

  ·         What can I do as a student to improve my chances of getting into this specialty?

CT has been a competitive surgical speciality. Interest and enthusiasm pretty much win the day …of course flavoured with a hefty pinch of ability!     

·         What would you have done if you couldn’t do your speciality?             


·         What are the drawbacks to your specialty?             

There is a lot of change at the moment both within the NHS and with the patterns of CV disease (note above). May be this will be a contracting speciality? There will always be room for cardiac and thoracic surgeons and certainly in congenital heart disease and heart failure.

  ·         Useful books/ links?             

History of cardiac Surgery by Stephen Westerby. Here is a description of the development of this young surgical speciality and as you read the many pages an insight into the cardiac surgical mind!!

Core Topics in Cardiothoracic Critical Care, Edited by Andrew Klein, Alain Vuylsteke, Samer A. M. Nashef


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