OAKS-1 Collaborator – Kenneth McLean:

With the OAKS-2 audit starting soon; it seems an excellent time to reflect on my own experiences as a collaborator in the OAKS-1 audit. This was my first experience of being involved with STARSurg and collaborative research, and so I was really intrigued to be part of a study of such a huge scope and potential impact.

Being an OAKS-1 collaborator involved collecting data on all eligible patients within one of the 2 week periods. This required checking the day’s theatre lists for any eligible patients, then collecting the data for these and any previous patients requiring follow up.  I was placed at a large tertiary centre with a high patient turnover, and so this could entail a couple of hours of work each day. Fortunately, since I was part of a mini-team with 2 other collaborators this allowed flexibility to work around everyone’s placements and time commitments. That said, I would definitely recommend working out a plan early on with your mini-team on what would work best for you all. While my mini-team made a ‘rota’ with just one of us collecting data each night, other mini-teams would all spend a bit of time each day to minimise the overall workload.

It was also a great chance to gain experience in the practical aspects of data collection, while being well supported by my mini-team, medical staff and the local lead. Figuring out where theatre lists are kept, or how to access particular blood results on the system could have been quite a challenge if I had been working by myself. From meeting the other collaborators taking part as well, it was clear there was a huge variety in levels of experience and interests. While not everyone was an aspiring surgeon or academic, I think we all had a shared understanding of just how essential and valuable it is to develop and demonstrate skills in research and audit (wherever we ended up in our medical careers).

Overall, I found OAKS-1 an exciting opportunity to be involved in some really high quality research, within a very defined and manageable period. Collaborative research (like OAKS-1) is something that I think both students and junior doctors can gain a lot from, and I’d really recommend taking part in the future.

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