What is your role?
“I am a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and my specialist interest is operations on hips and knees among other things. I work in surgical theatres with a team of staff and have carried out thousands of joint replacements to date.”
Why did you want to do this job?
“I’d always wanted to go into medicine and in particular orthopaedics. I remember one incident which really taught me a lot and which I suppose shaped how I try to care for patients.
“I was a medical student at the time, didn’t have a huge amount of hospital experience and my grandmother was extremely ill. She was a very proud lady and always took pride in her appearance and I remember going in to see her in her hospital bed.
“She asked me what I saw and I said, ‘I see you,’ and she said, ‘no, no tell me what you really see’ and I tried again but she said, ‘no, what you are actually looking at, is a frail old lady, rather unkempt with tubes and drips coming out of her. That’s what’s in front of you and that’s what anyone else would see. But you see your grandmother.’
“I think that idea, that everybody who comes into a hospital is someone’s relative or friend; that everyone who I might be about to operate on is a person is a basic principle of care. I think about that a lot and it helps me see the importance of what we do and the effect it has on every individual. People want to feel that and I will often say this is the most important operation I’ve ever done…..until I do the next one”
What do you like particularly about Derby Teaching Hospitals?
“Although I am the surgeon in theatre, I could not do any of the work I do without my team. It really is a combined effort. Whenever I am in theatre, there is a team of at least six with me, including junior doctors, specialist trainees in orthopaedics, anaesthetists, scrub nurses and theatre practitioners. Everyone is needed to make sure we get the best outcome we can.
“I encourage a chatty theatre because I feel the idea of absolute silence is unnecessary and can be intimidating. If there is a sense of familiarity with all team members contributing, there is a far greater sense of ‘team worth’ and ownership of the patient. You can be in theatre for hours at a time so you need to keep up a certain energy. If people feel they can talk to you they can raise concerns, spot any potential issues; you’ve got far more pairs of eyes around the place!
“In Derby there is the freedom to create this special atmosphere and the team ethic is wholeheartedly encouraged.”
Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
“I saw it as an opportunity to dispel a few myths about what theatres are like. Surgery can be a potentially scary experience for some people; if they have no idea what to expect it’s a fear of the unknown. Hopefully these programmes will show people what goes on in a theatre, so they can see it as a routine place of work.
“I also wanted to show that theatres don’t have to be a silent highly stressed environment, quite the opposite most of the time. That can be the case, when dealing with critical issues, but hopefully it is not the norm. A well prepared team doing routine work should be like any other place of work. The saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt” is not true. In my world, ‘familiarity breeds consistency’! A more relaxed atmosphere allows people to work at their best, gets them focused and thinking in a way a high-stress atmosphere doesn’t allow.”
How was it working with the camera and crew?
“There’s no doubt its odd having cameras and sound booms around you as you work. There was a period at first when the crew was filming in theatre with no other purpose than to generate familiarity, to get us all used to their presence. I think by the third time they were there, the staff were not really bothered about them.
“They didn’t make any demands at all and we were fundamentally clear with them that they had a fly-on-the-wall presence in there. If they got what they wanted, great. If not, sorry. We were not prepared to compromise anything in theatre.”
How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
“I don’t know but I hope it will be positive. I think a lot of people have an idea that theatres are austere, silent places but it’s not like that. Most of us try and create a relaxed atmosphere in theatre. So we put on the music, we talk, we create a real open atmosphere. It is a well-documented fact that people perform better in low-stress environments. Think about how you drive every day against how you did in your driving test!
“In this way, my theatre staff and I have a different level we can go to when we need to if things are not going to plan. Its automatic, the theatre does quieten, everyone knows a situation is developing and awaits instruction.
“But taken out of context the theatre atmosphere I try and create could surprise people or seem controversial. I’ve performed thousands of joint replacements and have been very fortunate with the outcomes of the vast majority, so for me, this theatre atmosphere works. It may be different for other surgeons and teams – it has to be right for them.
“A lot of patients like the music being played and those that are having a second side done often ask or even give me playlists ahead of their surgery to play when they are in theatre! All music welcome.”