Scalpel's Edge

A surgeon's notes


You know the cliche about surgeons? No bedside manner and an affinity for sharp tools? I’m not that gal. I have always prided myself on my surgical superpower – the ability to communicate. I am not the most up to date, steadiest-handed quickest-learner in my group, but I can talk and listen.

This skill is a surprising advantage in a field where it is unexpected. I can figure out what patients want. I know how to make them to agree with me, if I want to, but I get more of a kick out of helping them choose what they want. I can usually make them feel better about the bad stuff, and laugh despite their stitches. And I can often get anaesthetists, and booking nurses and resident staff to do what I want, and still like me at the end.

Of course, I am still a surgeon, and I still have a surgical personality. I couldn’t beat around a bush if there was a tiger in it. In surgery, this helps. People need to be told the truth, simply. Surgeons need to be able to say fart, poo and wee (at least), and answer truthfully. Could it be cancer? Yes. Will I die of this? Yes. Should I trust Lucy? No, Charlie Brown.

In real life, this trait doesn’t help as much. Tactlessness is funny in your friends, but a mood killer in party conversation. Honesty can be mean.

The other classical surgical foible is arrogance, which I have in spades (reread paragraphs one and two if you are unsure). In the last week I have told three people that I have excellent communication, and that is what makes me a good surgeon.

Last night, I went out with a colleague and somehow decided to give her an honest critique of her private life. Luckily, she can communicate too, and told me to shut up.

Sorry, babe. I’m gonna go back to humble now.

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