WARNING: I may word this post slightly in my favour, so there's a small chance I'll end up looking like a braggart. It isn't my intention, I assure you. But I do have a point. Stay tuned.
One of the worst parts of surgery is that patients really have no idea what actually goes on in the operating theatre. I don't mean the shenanigans and hijinx (just kidding...sort of), I mean the actual operation. The only parts of my work that the patient can see are the bandage and the scar. If those looks good, that seems to be all that matters. Your surgeon could be the biggest hack in the world, but if he can close your skin nicely, he's a superhero. But heaven forbid you get a drop of blood on the bandage, because then you're clearly a butcher. So the only real thing on which a patient can judge their surgeon is his personality - his bedside manner, attentiveness, attention to detail, mannerisms, etc. These things are important, but not as important as his skill in the OR. That's not to say it isn't a wonderful compliment when a patient tells me that she was referred by another patient of mine (I took out her friend's gall bladder, so when she needed surgery, her friend told her to come see me). I even had a woman track me down several years after I took out her appendix to do her breast biopsy when she found a lump. But how do they know if I'm actually any good?
One of our local magazines has their annual "Best Doctors" issue, in which they mail surveys to doctors and ask them who they would go to see if they needed medical care. But here's the problem with that question - I almost never see my colleagues operate. I know who's nice and who's an arrogant asshole, but I don't know who's good! I wouldn't have a clue who to see if I needed surgery. In that regard, I'm no better off than my patients! So who the hell can you trust to judge a surgeon's skill?
Anaesthesiologists and OR nurses, that's who. Think about it - all they do is watch surgeons operate, so you know damned well they know who is good and who is much more likely to remove the wrong kidney.
A man came to see me last week about getting his hernia fixed. He had no primary care doctor, so I wondered how it was that he got my name and number. Did he go to the ER? Did I operate on a family member or friend? As I was about to ask him, his wife knocked and stepped in the room - she's one of the anaesthesiologists I've worked with the past few years. And of all the surgeons at the hospital, she had him come to see me.
I've gotten some nice compliments over the years - it's great when someone tells me that my suit is nice or my haircut looks good. But I think this was one of the best compliments I've ever received.
Wait a minute, what was the point I was trying to make? Oh right, now I remember - don't sprain your shoulder when you pat yourself on the back. Make sure you stretch first.