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Sometimes back I was invited by my alma matter to the annual convocation cum freshman dinner. While thinking on what remarks to make, I thought of reflecting on the first five years as a consultant and what life lessons I have learnt that may resonate with a new consultant setting out for work. That speech did not happen, so my thoughts remained as thoughts. In a month or less, I got into a conversation with former schoolmates on the sidelines of a scientific conference. One of the stand out observations was how time was flying since we have been out of training. 

‘ I cannot believe it has been five years!’, I said. 

‘I cannot believe it is already 10!’, another observed. 

I got back from that conversation wondering, what are the lessons I have learned on the surgical streets during those 5 years? 

I christen them five lessons at five, what young consultants would love to hear as they hit the ground running


A few years back, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague. We were catching up over an amateur table tennis match as I prepared to proceed on leave. 

With every toss, spin and smash, I would utter a few details about the state of the surgical department. 

The conversation proceeded to capture what surgeries had been lined up. 

“As long as you have not booked any prostatectomy. I specialized in general surgery so that I will never have to do a prostatectomy in my life”, my colleague observed. Prostatectomy refers to removal of the prostate gland. A procedure carried out by both general surgeons and urologists but progressively being domesticated under the purview of the urologist colleagues. 

My colleague’s statement flew as a general rule of engagement at first. After all, we would meet on the ground for a handover round in the ward before I proceeded on leave. 

After some time of reflection, however, I was in awe of this policy employed by my colleague to intentionally shun procedures that did not align with their passion. 

Think about it. There is always that not so good side of anything we have been part off. The subjects we liked to loath, the parts of our job description that we abhor, the aspects that we would wish to skip if we had our way. 

It is inevitable that we cannot all like all the parts of our jobs. Research shows up to 85% of people hate their jobs. How can we sustain this level of job loathing when we spend a significant part of our adult life in one form of a job or the other? 

“Find something you love and you will never work a day in your life”, said Harvey Mackay. 

Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that we shall love every part of our jobs. Yet we all agree there is that exciting part that attracted us to our careers in the first place. Those assignments when we feel most engaged, most in flow, when we cannot wait for the evening in order to narrate how our day was. 

What if we deliberately put more efforts and intentions towards that passionate side of our careers? We could slowly starve off the hard parts and eventually end up doing the exciting part, most of the time . 

Surgery  is not for the faint hearted. The stakes are high, the decisions are demanded within milliseconds, lives are at stake and work hours can be long and odd. But I know procedures and sub disciplines where I find my flow. Conditions that I take to like fish to water. When possible I ask colleagues to see patients where I do not feel comfortable. Besides surgery, I love writing and public speaking. In the moments when the times are tough and the hours are odd, I look for something to write about or give a speech on. 

In the fullness of time I look at not taking up weekend or night duties. Because these hours have a way of making me look at surgery in negative light sometimes. 

I believe everyone can make a deliberate decision to say, “that’s not my forte, I’ll pass it”. Slowly over time, you remain with the segments of your career that you love the most. 

About the Author

Dr. Stanley Aruyaru

Dr. Aruyaru is a Consultant General and Laparoscopic Surgeon and a Healthcare Manager. He has solid experience in managing busy surgical units and leading clinical teams to deliver in the lines of quality health provision and evidence based surgical practice.

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Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise. - Alice Walker

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