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Career in ENT

If you are thinking of embarking on a surgical career, ENT (also known as Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery) is an exciting and challenging option. It is a dynamic and varied specialty with a wide range of skills to master, from routine to highly complex.

ENT encompasses a broad range of diseases in patients of all ages, from a baby with airway obstruction, through to an elderly man with throat cancer. The skills needed to manage patients are therefore diverse. Medical skills are required for accurate diagnosis and non-surgical management of conditions. Surgical skills range from microscopic surgery for middle ear conditions, through endoscopic surgery for nasal conditions to more traditional open surgery for head and neck cancer.

Common procedures undertaken include tympanoplasty, mastoidectomy, endoscopic sinus surgery, thyroidectomy, rhinoplasty and salivary gland surgery. Tertiary referral centres undertake cochlear implantation, resection of head and neck cancers, skull base surgery and complex airway surgery

Emergency work ranges from common conditions such as head and neck infections, epistaxis and removal of foreign bodies through to the urgent treatment of airway obstruction and penetrating neck trauma. Due to the diversity of the case load, otorhinolaryngologists – head and neck surgeons work closely with a range of professionals including audiologists, speech and language therapists, oncologists, endocrinologists, dermatologists, neurosurgeons, maxillofacial surgeons and plastic surgeons.

Next steps (what can I do now?)

Medical Student

As a medical student there is plenty of time to develop an interest in ENT. As part of your medical school course you will have an attachment in ENT usually of around 2-4 weeks. This will give you some exposure to common ENT emergencies, ENT operations and a feel for the speciality as a career. Organising an elective in ENT can be a fantastic way of gaining more exposure and seeing how ENT is practised around the world. There is also the opportunity for self selected special study modules and one of these could be in ENT.

Using the initiative to approach an ENT consultant or an ENT trainee and expressing your interest in helping out with a project or ongoing audit is an invaluable way to gain experience in this speciality. If you have an interesting idea for an audit, find someone who is willing to supervise the project.  

As a foundation trainee finding the time to attend theatre becomes more difficult because of the demands of a ward based job and therefore using your time as a student to attend theatre is much advised. Be sure to have revised your anatomy and this will make theatre sessions much more interesting and useful. Seeing the patient pre and post operatively is also useful as you can see how they presented and how they recover post operatively.

Foundation years

Apply for a job with an ENT and/or surgical rotation Remember that when applying for core surgical training the interviews are not specific to ENT and your ranking determines whether you are successful in getting a job with an ENT rotation.

Core training

Some deaneries have themed posts whereby rotations useful for ENT training are grouped together. To complete MRCS-ENT requires taking the MRCS part A and DOHNS OSCE. For further information on MRCS-ENT visit:

ST3 application in ENT. National recruitment for a training number for ST3-ST8. The medical careers website has a summary of Otorhinolaryngology as a career and the training pathway. Click here.

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence has produced a document on the future of training numbers in Otorhinolaryngology. The purpose of this document is to make recommendations to inform planning for future medical training numbers in Otorhinolaryngology in England over the next three years.  This can be viewed here: click here

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