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Something interesting I learnt in the operating room…both sides of the scalpel.

Authors: Kseniya Ponceliz Khristenko; 5th year Medical Student; Asensio Gomez L, Surgery Department; Hospital Universitario La Paz; Madrid; Spain; Instagram:; Linkedin: Kseniya Ponceliz; Twitter: SusaPonceliz

My name is Kseniya and fortunately, or unfortunately, I have had the opportunity to live a surgery experience from both sides as a patient and as a surgeon. It’s not easy to be a patient, which means to entrust your life to unknown people. This situation has prepared me for when I am the one who is trusted.

When you lie on a bed, alone, you feel scared and vulnerable; you only can trust the team, yes, your team. How can I explain to surgeons that their words can affect their patient’s life.

Many patients think that the most important work in a hospital is done by a surgeon but it goes much further than that. A single surgeon can’t do much without their team. Teamwork is one of the most important things I learned as a student in my rotation in the Surgery Department. When I was a patient I could not imagine that, and the picture I had of the solitary surgeon saving lives turned 180º. Dr Asensio Gómez taught me to introduce myself every time before surgery to every member of the team. Initially I didn’t care enough, but by the end of my rotation I realized how important this is. The team has to work like a dance; one mistake can ruin a Tango. It’s amazing to see how much coordination is needed between the surgeons, nurses, instrumentalists or auxiliaries. Everyone knows what to do at every moment. 

Surgeons don’t just operate. Have you ever spent a minute to consider the whole journey between a patient feeling something is wrong and when you operate on them? Others involved could include the general practitioner, the specialist, administrators… an amazing network required to get someone ready for an operation.

Now let’s talk about the surgeon. I’m amazed with the qualities needed to be a surgeon, and this is the reason why I want to be one.

The ability to stay focused, deal with tiredness and the patience to continue and take decisions when something goes wrong. I knew the surgeon who operated on me was superb. I had watched him as a student in the theatre focusing on every single detail, working with his fingers. That was when  I fell in love with this specialty. 

I was inspired to choose surgery as a result of what Dr Gomez has taught me during my rotation. A good mentor opens your eyes to a lifestyle you want to follow. A surgeon is a student, a master, a friend and a confident if it is necessary. They are a part of a team but have to work alone, like a leader.

Beyond this, I learned a surgeon is not always a distant machine, but a person, with feelings and the objective to enhance the life quality of patients.

I made an important decision years ago. I put my trust in a young surgeon after a previous failed operation, and it was the best decision I ever made. My surgeon knows me better than my father and that’s why I want to be one. I am grateful to my surgeon and his team, and one day I would like to be proud to say that I’m a good surgeon too. I know it’s not easy, but it has always been my dream and I’m going to work hard to help my patients, just like my surgeon helped me.


Part of the charitable activity of the Foundation, BJS Academy is an online educational resource for current and future surgeons.

The Academy is comprised of five distinct sections: Continuing surgical education, Young BJS, Cutting edge, Scientific surgery and Surgical news. Although the majority of this is open access, additional content is available to BJS subscribers and strategic partners.

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