When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge.Constantinos Kavafis, 1863–19331
Odysseus' Myth and Surgical Career
Early consultant career
The 10 Commandments
- 1.Select your surgical cases carefully. A prudent approach in early independent consultant career steps would be to (whenever possible) select cases that will probably have a successful outcome. It would not be inappropriate to ask a senior, more experienced colleague to take on the care of a challenging patient.
- 2.Plan your surgical cases carefully. Mental labour reflects the mental efforts that a surgeon is making to plan a surgical procedure or manage a patient's clinical condition. A vascular surgeon needs to devote time and thought to clinical planning. For new consultant vascular surgeons who commence their independent practice, the lack of a lengthy consultant experience is offset by consideration of all eventualities and bailouts, so mature clinical decisions are reached and stressful situations avoided.
- 3.Seek advice from colleagues. An invaluable element of comprehensive surgical care is obtaining an opinion from colleagues. One will be surprised to see how one's approach to clinical management may change merely by having an informal discussion with a colleague. Such discussions can be a preparatory work preceding a formal discussion within the context of a multidisciplinary team meeting.
- 4.Get a multidisciplinary team involved in the care of your patients. Vascular patients often have complex disease and significant comorbidities. Careful work up, health optimisation strategies, specific measures to enhance peri-operative care, and pre-operative risk stratification are examples where input from other specialists may make a substantial difference to surgical outcomes.
- 5.Communicate well within the team. Interpersonal skills have been described as vital for success as a new consultant. Being friendly, diplomatic, supportive, reliable, flexible, and resilient are important features ensuring effective functioning within the team. Being ready to accept constructive criticism is a sign of efficient engagement.
- 6.Communicate well with patients. Patients want an active collaborative approach to their treatment. They perceive this attention when you pay them a visit (outside of the context of a formal ward round) in the ward during the post-operative period.
- 7.Find a mentor. In Greek mythology, Mentor was a close friend of Odysseus, who was given responsibility of Odysseus' son, Telemachus while Odysseus was away at the Trojan War. Mentor became Telemachus' counsellor and protector. For new consultants, the role of mentor should comprise counselling on personal and professional development, career guidance, boosting consultants' capabilities, and helping them realise their potential. Proper mentoring ensures job satisfaction and psychosocial wellbeing, and provides a framework that encourages autonomy and self development.
- 8.Maintain good record keeping. We live in an “evidence oriented” era. Good record keeping reflects a professional medical practice. Apart from ensuring patient safety and quality of care, good record keeping can protect from legal proceedings. Benchmarking results against national clinical registries and local colleagues is also a sign of maintaining good clinical practice.
- 9.Continue to be a learner. New consultants should adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner. Being prepared to embrace new technologies, techniques, and clinical practices, and being able to implement them wisely in your own surgical life is an indicator of a highly promising consultant career.
- 10.Be patient with your aspirations. New consultants aspire to implement new ideas. Goals such as setting up a new clinical service or developing an academic/research network can be achieved when systematically working on a long-term strategic plan based on clearly defined principles.
- Poems 1897–1933.Ikaros, Athens1984
- Can newly appointed consultants achieve national standards in colorectal cancer surgery?.Int J Surg. 2016; 36: S31-S32
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