My first exposure to Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery came during a Student Selected Component (SSC), in my third year as an undergraduate. I had already done a placement in Cardiothoracic surgery, as my first clinical placement in that year, and found the idea of surgery as a career an interesting opportunity. In all honesty, I enjoyed the operating bits, but I became a little restless watching lobectomy after lobectomy. On day 1 of my SSC, after trust induction, I went to meet my supervisor, Mr. Brian Todd, whom I was told was in theatre, operating. I had previously learnt how to scrub up and so, after introducing myself, he asked me to scrub and assist. I still remember the case; it was a distal fibula fracture for open reduction internal fixation. After about 15 minutes at the table, I mustered up the courage to ask a question: “Mr Todd, how come you are fixing a broken ankle, if you are a spinal surgeon?” His response was exactly what I was looking for in a career. He explained, “This is my trauma list, I do whatever comes through the doors of A&E that needs fixing.” I had found a specialty that allowed me to be subspecialised, whilst maintaining a great degree of variety, in the number and types of operations I was expected to do.
From that point onwards I made it my priority to firstly find out everything I could about the specialty, but also to actively seek experience as an undergraduate in the other surgical disciplines to ensure I had made the right career decision. I have met several key people in my early career that continued to inspire me in Orthopaedics but it was that first time in trauma theatre that sparked my interest. I owe a lot to the many people that helped me along the way, to gain experience in the field. All of whom helped maintain my enthusiasm and continue my professional development.
My top career tips:
- Making career decisions has been brought significantly earlier in the postgraduate medical life. Make it a priority as a medical student to actively seek out the career path that suits you best.
- Ask consultants what they think is the best and worst thing about their job. Try to gain a balanced view of what it means to be a consultant in that specialty.
- Commitment, enthusiasm and initiative are everything in surgery. Show keenness to get involved, whether it is in clinic, theatre, audit, research or teaching and you will get more out of each placement.