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Dyslexia in Orthopaedic Training

Mr David Hillier

Having dyslexia should not be a barrier to surgical training, be it Orthopaedics or any other surgical speciality. Indeed, it often affords you  different skills that may be a benefit such as enhanced visual-spatial abilities, practicality and problem solving. The very essence of a career in Orthopaedics. Focussing on the practical side of training, you should have no disadvantage.


But surgical training is more than an 8-year practical apprenticeship. There is theory and research to be completed, both of which require large amounts of data gathering, understanding and commitment to memory. In short…. READING!



This is the part I struggled with mostly. I never enjoyed research as I couldn’t settle down and read the volumes required for the background evidence or a literature review. My reading abilities meant that it could take me hours of reading and re-reading sections of papers to try and clearly understand the message. Abstracts become particularly useful for the everyday, but not when using to appropriately quote in a paper.


Thankfully, there is more recognition that trainees don’t need to produce individual RCTs to get through training. Get involved in the national multicentre RCTs that your hospitals will be carrying out. This may involve recruitment to trials or even offering to be the site principal investigator. Ultimately, you are unlikely to be writing the final document, but if your role is sufficient you could well be a named author.


The Exam

As for the exam, I was always more of an adept crammer, than a long-distance learner. I could not sit for hours, trawling the tomes of textbooks. I could however sit on Orthobullets, having paid for the full access and joined a learning plan. Reading shorter articles but then crucially answering the bank of thousands of questions was the way forward for me. This could be fitted in-between cases in theatre as it was always available in my pocket. For the part 2 vivas, I found the multitude of YouTube videos invaluable, particularly those by Quen Tang and OrthoM8. Afterall, dyslexic people tend to be more visual learners. For the clincials, you should be flying. This is not textbook stuff. This is your day job in clinic. Go to as many clinics as you can, not just with your trainers but also other consultants, particularly those who are also examiners. Ask them to pressurise you for time, it goes quickly.


There is no getting around it, there will be some reading involved. The best advice I can give you is to join a reliable study group of friends. They will fill in the gaps for you, and in return you will likely be able to provide a different, dare I say, more practical approach to problem solving.



Be open and honest about your dyslexia. Have the conversation early in training with your TPD and subsequently with your AES and CS at each hospital. Learning styles can be adapted. It is just good to have an idea what yours is and what you require from your trainers when you start that conversation.


Good luck!


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