Know your personality when choosing a career in surgery

By December 14, 2008Uncategorized
I knew the moment that I wanted to become a doctor, I also wanted to be a surgeon. This was not because I thought it was “cool or fun,” or that I like played the game “operation” when I was a kid, but because I knew that my personality and values matched this profession: I liked working with my hands, the idea of “healing patients with my hands,” and requiring technical precision to produce results. I was impatient, and wanted to see the results of my work immediately, not months or years later. I knew the moment that I tied my first knot around a blood vessel, cut out a cancer on the body, and fixed a broken bone, that this was the greatest profession in the world. Every time I stepped foot in the operating room, there was a reaffirming moment or experience that made me certain that surgery was the right field for me.

Understanding your own personality and values will go a long way in determining your fit and longevity in plastic surgery. Surgical training is long and gruelling (between 6-10 years), and plastic surgery training is not a “walk in the park.” If you think that the years of training in plastic surgery will be centered around “boob jobs and liposuction,” you will be sorely disappointed. Try thinking of days in the burn intensive care unit managing the sickest of patients, 100 degree operating rooms reconstructing a burned child, 10 hour operations reconstructing a mangled face or limb, being wallowed up by the odor of a necrotizing infection, then going home to prepare a power point lecture on a topic you know little about, and giving that lecture to your peers and attendings who will criticize your work–then getting up at 5am to round on your patients to start the cycle all over.

I have seen many in surgery who quit in the middle of training because the surgical lifestyle does not fit their life. When you choose the road to become a surgeon, you need to know your personality, values, and motivators. If you cannot love the operating room like you love your own home, then you need to think twice about embarking on this journey. For those who can, there is an infinitely bright future in this field for you.