What’s in a title?

Surgery was historically performed by barbers without medical training and as such they were not addressed as “doctor” but as “mister”. Surgeons in the UK have retained this quirk of losing the title doctor on obtaining surgical membership, hence all surgeons are not addressed as doctor but as Mr, Miss or Mrs.  It has taken me a long time to feel grown up enough to use my grown up titles but now it is second nature to be Miss KBW and not introduce myself by first name. In some circumstances I do say my full name minus the title especially with kids. At a recent medical wedding we were discussing how we all introduce ourselves and without exception we all keep the barrier up now with use of titles and surnames whereas as juniors we did not. Those of us who had worked in a and e recalled how we never introduced ourselves with surnames back then, it was first name only.
Inevitably there are some patients that you come to be on first name terms with due to a long relationship built over time and I like this very much but I don’t like when it is faked or forced upon me. One patient I looked after with whom I shared a first name and year of birth died after a few years of illness necessitating frequent surgical admissions. She and her family built up a relationship over that time with many of us and crossed into the realms of first names. Many of us were distressed when she died and sat crying with her family and friends. This sort of thing stays with you and would have been impossible to go through using professional titles.
We have got a new consultant in our unit who is keen on the informal, he has all his patients addressing him by his first name. It’s nice whilst the going is good but as soon as something goes wrong or there is a complaint you don’t have your professional identity to hide behind and your laid back attitude suddenly seems unprofessional and sloppy. This is especially true when it is in contrast to the behaviour of your peers, suddenly the other surgeon who looks immaculate, is always professional and is treated with respect by the nurses and his colleagues looks like the man who should have done your operation and not the chatty guy with the hoody.

This is Dave.




This is Sir Winston Churchill.


Difficult time of year

It’s a difficult time of year for deciding what to wear. I have a party today that will be mostly outside (it is 15 degrees) and so it will be rather chilly but it is also quite sunny and as it is early September it is sometimes summer and sometimes early autumn. I can’t decide what to wear, I’ve got a lovely new long sleeved dress which is warm enough but very autumnal or a nice summery dress which means no tights and potentially looking nice but feeling frozen.

The really pathetic thing is that I have been deliberating over this for about a week, it’s truly ridiculous to be preoccupied by such a silly and girly thing. Same problem is coming tomorrow, we are going to a wedding and this time it is the outerwear that is giving me a headache. Too cold for a wrap, not cold enough for a furry black coat….difficult.

How nice that these two things seem like my biggest problems. Reading through Elle magazine recently I was struck by how very serious fashion is. Very intelligent women and men are paid well to reflect on fashion and no wonder, it’s a multi billion dollar business. It doesn’t quite impact on my hospital unfortunately and I keep my thoughts on biker jackets (essential, wonderful, so glad they are still in fashion) and pale pink wool coats (lovely but not for me) to myself. It’s ok to be interested in food and cooking but my net-a-porter obsession has to be kept under wraps in the workplace.

The only clothing it is acceptable to discuss at work is Boden which as my husband said “it’s nice darling but nobody wants to have sex with someone wearing Boden”.


The KBW shoe classification system: Saturday night shoes, Big lady shoes, Mummy shoes, Ugly shoes etc.

These are Saturday night shoes

These are Saturday night shoes

It’s great being in a hospital as there is an endless supply of gossip. Inevitably though, some of the gossip is going to be about you. I was disappointed recently to hear a story about me criticising a junior doctors shoes as being ugly. I have a certain fondness for shoes and as most of mummy life is spent in flat shoes, at work I wear what my children call “big lady shoes”.

These are the very pair of shoes that courted the comments. "Big lady shoes"

These are the very pair of shoes that courted the comments.  LK Bennett, same as Kate’s! 

Surgeons spend most of the day in scrubs and clogs so my heels and dresses are usually only on me for an hour at either end of the day in theatre, apart from the days I am in clinic and to be honest most of that is spent on my backside.

Theatre shoes. Extremely comfortable.

Theatre shoes. Extremely comfortable.

Back to the story; ugly shoes girl said to me (in the sort of tone that suggested I was wearing lap dancer shoes) “how can you walk in those heels all day? It can’t be good for you?” To which I replied “quite easily. I certainly couldn’t walk in your shoes”

Ugly shoes then said “oh really, why not?” KBW “Because I think they’re rather ugly”.

These are pretty close to the shoes that I did not fancy. Not even for gardening, not even for pig farming.

These are pretty close to the shoes that I did not fancy. Not even for gardening, not even for pig farming.

Now, I would never have commented on the shoes because what one wears is entirely a personal matter and each to their own multicoloured, clashing prints, spots with stripes preferences. She asked for the shoe comment with her nippy little jibe about how I can walk in heels all day and now I have the hospital wide reputation of being the shoe police. Ridiculous.

Mummy shoes

Mummy shoes

Stripper shoes

Stripper shoes

The genius of William Boyd

I am working my way through the works of William Boyd, I was hooked after Any Human Heart and am avidly reading the rest.

Any human heart: the actors who play Logan Mountstuart

Almost as good as the book is this excellent adaptation of Any Human Heart done by Channel 4.

He is very good at making you reflect on your own actions and seeing how small and inconsequential meetings or events can have big repercussions, which is nicely summed up by this quote from Waiting for Sunrise “Fucking consequences. Again”

It’s Newton’s third law for the 21st century.