The day I decided surgery was for me…thanks to a brilliant placement.
9 November 2022
Before medical school I worked in oncology and this was always top of my intended career list. My first F1 job was in oncology which was interesting but did not leave me feeling fulfilled. My second job was colorectal surgery, which I was not looking forward to as I always thought of surgeons as they are depicted in the TV show Scrubs, unintelligent “scalpel jockeys”.
I started the surgery job based on the surgical admissions unit (SAU). During the SAU shifts I was lucky enough to be paired with several passionate and approachable registrars. One of whom was happy for me to clerk with autonomy, formulating a potential diagnosis and management plan, and then would take me with him for his senior review. I was praised for the appropriate decisions I made, and taught about aspects I where I was wrong or had missed something.
The SHO I was paired with during these shifts took me under his wing and acted as my ‘surgical guru’ throughout the placement, offering vital guidance as well as portfolio advice and development opportunities. He also encouraged me to get ‘hands-on’, initially assisting, and then performing very minor procedures such as abscess incision and drainage and manual evacuations.
I found the ward work busy but rewarding. I managed to learn a lot about colorectal surgery and how patients should be managed postoperatively. On the wards I was lucky enough to work with a registrar who was a true leader. He looked out for all members of the team, endeavoured to deliver teaching to juniors, planned the registrar rota as well as developed a clear computer system that highlighted staffing levels on the ward. Also, he took on the project of creating a colorectal handbook which was intended to act as an ultimate document for all new doctors to show them how the colorectal team ran and how to manage day-to-day on the ward. Input was sought from all members of the surgical team to make this handbook as useful and accurate as possible.
The consultants during the rotation were all friendly and approachable. They made a point of getting the juniors involved during divisional days and M&M meetings, and if we were able to get to theatres, they would make a point of getting us scrubbed in and involved with the operation or at least quizzing us about the anatomy and pathophysiology.
So, for me there was not a single day I decided surgery was for me, but it was throughout an incredible four-month placement on a surgical ward thanks to the input from many inspiring trainees and consultants. I am truly grateful for the F1 job I had, as I have no doubt that if I were placed in a different job, Trust, hospital, or team there is a potential my misguided view of surgeons would still be present.
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