In Which I Am A Practical Person

I’ve been very handsy of late, and not in a groping sex-pest kind of way (you’ll be pleased to hear). I enjoy getting a bit practical: cannulas, arterial gases, bloods etc, but of late I’ve been taking it to a step further. The other day I took a needle and drained 1.6 litres of ascites (fluid that builds up in the abdomen, often secondary to liver failure or cancer) with the registrar to guide me. A few days later I did it alone, and I’m growing in confidence.

Today I pushed it further. I took a patient with a problem, made a hole in them and I fixed the problem. Practically.* I wrote the op note, my name in the space marked ‘Surgeon 1’. It was exhilarating.

In December of this year I will need to make a choice, and it’s a choice about practicality. My whole life I’ve been someone who’d solve problems with his head rather than his hands. Head in the clouds – there is a joy in figuring things through, putting it together, solving the puzzle. There’s also real satisfaction in handiwork, the immediate fix, the hard graft and going home a job well done. I don’t want to lose that exhilaration and sense of achievement. Head or hands? Focus mainly on new knowledge, or new skills?

Hands or head? It’s not quite so black and white as that, the are many shades of grey, but there will be an emphasis on one of these areas for the rest of my working life. It’s a huge decision.

I've never felt a symbol to be so appropriate before.

Head or hands?

*both because they still had a hole in them which will take some time to heal and because it was actually hands-on practical.


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