Talking and Walking

We surgeons have big egos, some bigger than others granted, but you need to believe you can do it and crucially know that you’re good at it in order to pick up a knife and cut someone open. The patient is happy to accept this as fact, nobody is reassured by a nervous and uncertain surgeon. The general public and our medical colleagues like it a bit less; until they become one of our patients and it is their life in our hands, then they want a very confident surgeon. 

Tonight as I left the hospital the husband of  my patient for tomorrows big operation said “I know that we are in your good, safe hands tomorrow and you are the right woman for the job”. 

He knows no such thing! He does not know me, there is little about me online and certainly nothing testifying to me being any good technically, I have no local reputation in Bighospitalburgh unlike my boss has, I am a wee nobody. 

However, he has seen me come round twice a day, every day this week and examine his wife, poke and prod her and investigate her and now I have reached a diagnosis and made a plan….A plan I would have made 24 hours ago if radiology were a bit fucking quicker off the mark with the CT. 

He trusts me based on how I come across, what I’ve said, how the juniors and the nurses have treated me and interacted with me and he feels reassured. It is incredible that people trust their instincts this much. I’m not sure if I gave off these vibes a few years ago, either I am starting to look older and thus seem competent or I have some aura of surgical confidence that was previously absent. 

The only thing that has changed is that this operation I have planned tomorrow I know I can do, I  have done it alone successfully plenty of times now and this must come across. I have reassured him that the boss will be there and he is in overall charge and I am just the deputy. He patted me on the back and said “I’m happy that you have it under control, I reckon you’re the lady for the job”.  

I have long been able to talk the talk, but the knowledge and confidence of actually being able to do it 90% of the time has changed how I come across. I didn’t tell him “oh gosh no I will be doing it with his help and advice” as I would have a few years ago. I told him I’d ring him when I was done to tell him how it went. There is a balance between competence and assuredness and reassurance and the other extreme of blasè cocky arrogance. I hope I’m finding that balance. It’s a huge privilege to be so trusted. 

I’m probably going to completely cock this up tomorrow and have to be bailed out following this moment of supreme over confidence…



3 thoughts on “Talking and Walking

    • I have read it. I’m not sure if General surgeons on call ever sleep through their night shifts undisturbed but I can see how she might have a point in the less busy surgical specialties. I am a wee nobody!

  1. Thank you, I am feeling that change too as my training progresses. I don’t try to bat away compliments any more. I say thank you and try to believe in myself.

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