Attributes of a Good Surgeon
Realising the benefits that good leadership and teamwork can deliver requires commitment from all those involved in patient care. From the surgeon’s viewpoint there are numerous desirable attributes which are developed through medical school education, foundation training, core training and into professional practice. These are outlined below:
1. Clinical Care
An obvious consideration of what makes a “good surgeon” is the care provided to patients throughout the patient journey. This includes technical ability in the operating theatre and non-technical skills.
2. Maintenance and Improvement
Remaining up-to-date with innovations in surgical practice and patient are is an important attribute of a good surgeon. In doing so, one is able to inform patients and explain the reasons for and against procedures, allowing them to make an informed decision. Willingness to learn from others and improve from others by reviewing personal practice forms part of Continuing Professional Development; this is a requirement in a portfolio to meet revalidation and recertification criteria.
3. Teaching, Training and Supervision
Educating others forms part of professional development and surgeons frequently oversee projects for medical students or trainees. This requires knowledge of the objectives of the tasks undertaken, knowledge of what technical and non-technical skills should be improved and knowledge of how to encourage the development of these skills. The mentormentee relationship should work both ways, such that the mentee is able to approach their supervisor for assistance and is accepting of any constructive criticism delivered.
4. Relationships with Patients
Relationships with patients are fundamentally based on trust; the patient trusts that the surgeon will do all in their power to help them and their surgical journey. Obtaining informed consent prior to clinical care is based on trust and allows patient autonomy to be upheld. Developing relationships with patients begins from the first consultation and is continued after the day of an operation being undertaken. Acknowledging the needs of the individual and employing effective communication helps in developing an open relationship. In this way patients disclose their medical history and admit underlying fears, allowing better patient care to be delivered.
5. Relationships with Colleagues
Partnership with all members of the multidisciplinary clinical team, management, technicians and support staff fosters healthy working relationships. Consequently, patient care is enhanced through communication, enhanced productivity and an improved team dynamic. Understanding how a colleague works and taking action to facilitate a positive working environment is beneficial to all. Emotional intelligence forms an important component of working relationships, through the ability “to understand and recognize emotional states and to use that understanding to manage one’s self and other individuals or teams”.
Maintenance of good personal health and knowing when you must stop working is important in the protection of patient safety. The relevant senior staff must be informed of communicable disease or blood-borne disease transmission. In addition, being vigilant of the health of colleagues forms part of protecting patient safety, for example, failure to report suspicion that the consultant consistently operates after several glasses of wine or that the CT2 has been seen smoking drugs can facilitate the propagation of errors in the workplace. Finally, surgeons are renowned for working at all hours, however acknowledgement that we all need rest is crucial in good patient care.