Mrs Scarlett McNally
Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon
Council member Royal College of Surgeons
Being a surgeon just felt right. I love the challenge of thinking and planning, then physically changing things using your hands. A couple of weeks into medical school, I realised that I didn't want to listen to problems I could not help with, or give people tablets they wouldn't take or that they would have side-effects from, for conditions which might have been preventable. I loved anatomy and the idea of fixing a problem, of being able to hold the blockage/breakage in your hands. Orthopaedic surgery seemed particularly focussed. Everyone can see the Xrays, you can pre-plan operations and it is very varied, in age and occupation of patients. There is very little cancer work, and since many are lifestyle operations, you plan with the patient what you will do.
I would recommend the life of a surgical Consultant - there is enough time (e.g. 1½ days per week that is nominally for Private Practice) to do what you are interested in. I now have 4 fantastic children and we cycle to school together when we can. (I recommend urban living for babysitters, and being close to work to save travel time.) Most Consultants now could have a lot of spare time. I don’t do private practice and cram in examining, interviewing, teaching, committee work, Trust management, research, audit, etc.
In the ten years I have been a Consultant, I have become more involved in teaching and committees: I think practicing surgeons should be helping to lead changes in Medical Training. I was Director of Medical Education for my Trust for three years. I am very excited by my election onto the Council of the College of Surgeons – we can change things and make things better - I want to work on the interface with Department of Health, educational bodies, etc.
I recommend that aspiring surgeons continue any sporting, teaching or management activities. Surgery is very competitive, and you need something different on your C.V. Many years ago, someone told me he had only shortlisted me for a job (which I didn't get) because I had Karate Black Belt on my CV.