Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Woman Surgeon and the Pea

It's just a question, really. Does any one of you artistic souls out there have an idea for the logo of the new women in surgery committee of the royal college of surgeons of england? I can't face capitalising them all as is their due, but the WinS committee goes like that and is going to be a new dynamic force for equality in surgery. Possibly. No, definitely! Only logos are a bit of a debatable issue, post-Olympics. In fact, for women in surgery or women generally, how do you get a defining image of a woman that is not also insulting or reductionist? Well, answers on a post card in a week... They have tried an initial one: a woman's eyes looking over what appears to be the top of a mask on top of the "W" like a lid (I'd love to copy it but would be breaking a few rules) . When shown to some great and good at the college, it was said to look like a woman with fangs, or screaming. Perhaps this describes better the male surgeon's fear of women in the job?

This has been a welcome distraction from the organising of kids and the freezer and the dry cleaning of suits in mothballs (I wish they had been in mothballs - a chosen few eaten happily by generations of the little buggers since I last donned a suit and tried to look serious) which have been my lot of the last few weeks. Going back to work coincides neatly with school and the "Back to School" cheery adverts in shop windows have the same day-dulling effect on me as they did in school days. As they do indeed on my son. Is it no coincidence that they have created an academic year that starts as the nights draw in, the last hopes for summer fade, and we bed down for a long, wet winter. Do they enjoy school more in Australia?

The distraction of suits and summer's last days has in turn helped me avoid the concept of actually revising some facts after my long sojourn in mummy-land. Well, have arrived at the concept but not really acquired any of the facts. So I have persuaded myself that only option is to treat this with more retail therapy - buy some books with the fast-dwindling capital and somehow sleeping with them under my pillow will give me confidence to face out my first day at work. Perhaps.

A logo for the women surgeons? A princess and the pea-like image but with the woman sleeping soundly on a great pile of books and surgical instruments under the mattresses.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Oncology multidisciplinary meeting

“Mr Jones…”, someone drones.
The consultants are the only ones consulted,
Although the ENT surgeons keep cutting in.
“This one’s not healing. Transfer to Ealing.”
The anatomist may do the body of the work
But it is the pathologist who focuses on the details.
“Mrs Ryder: intermittent stridor.”
The radiologists show everyone the bigger picture
Although the nurses, now sitting silent, might be more qualified to do so.
“White cells seem low. Stop the chemo.”
Similarly, the speech and language therapists say nothing
And the physios don’t move a muscle.
“Tumour’s enlarging.” “Where’s the margin?”
Some doctors are called away, leaving when they have nothing more to offer,
But the palliative carers stay until the end.
“Mr Brady." "So, consider radio?”
And for three hours, at the back of the room,
The students study the insides of their eyelids.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

There's a blog blocking me up like a constipated stool..watch out, it's been a long time. Complete bowel obstruction about to ensue. The problem is, the time is so rapidly approaching for my return to the world of full-time work, that there has been no time to record the changes bearing down on me. From planning the minutiae of my children's after-school care to worrying about only having joke shoes and glasses bent back by a toddler and held together with sellotape. Once fetching in a Pulp or Morrissey sort of way, this look is hardly inspiring in a surgeon. One of my bosses (for someone who works only one measly day, I seem to have acquired a fair number of bosses) commented that my clothes didn't match. There are downsides to female bosses. I didn't want to admit that I'd got dressed in the dark. Anyhow, defence seemed pointless. Another said, "you'll have to lose the hippy look". Oh, for a suit and a tie and be done with it. Haven't we enough to worry about without the whole thing of what goes with what. I shall spend as much of the day in blue pyjamas as possible. It saves on dry cleaning bills, for a start.

I've noticed that colonoscoping has got easier. I mean, at about the pace of watching a child grow. Almost visible, yet not. Only when someone hasn't seen them for a few weeks, then they say, ooh he's taller and I think yes, I thought he was taller. Been detecting it in extra gap at the ankle - note: needs new trousers - and yet can't see it. My improvements are a combination of confidence and practice. Interesting to see that the boss (one of em) doesn't intervene now when I'm stuck. I'm kind of left to it. I don't whizz round them all in 3 minutes, but I do whizz round some in 3 minutes. There are always the ego-deflating (mine) and colon-inflating (theirs) depressingly difficult ones. We had a list of them last week. Possibly the most depressing week I'd had in what is now 2 and a half years of this job. Each and every patient was either poorly prepared (bowels covered in poo - like we all are. What a lowering thought. I shall look at the next mean member of officialdom I meet with my X-ray eyes and see through to his poo-covered gut), or hopelessly difficult or both. And worst of all, we didn't achieve anything. No one was saved. A hiatus at the beginning, at 9, when no one arrived for an hour left us hopelessly late at the end, finally drooping out of there resentfully at 7. At least it rained cheerlessly all day, matching our mood.
This week, though, buoyed by the sun we succeeded. We still finished late, but it somehow felt different. I searched carefully for a polyp to have the satisfaction of finding one, hiding in the very last place I looked. You don't want to find cancers. They are big and scary and life-changing, life-threatening bits of news to see round a bend - an intake of breath, somehow the patient is alerted and looks: what's that? of course they ask. Yet how can you have a serious discussion about what it might be, with someone dosed up on benzodiazepines, in the least equable position at patient can be, at the mercy of your scope? Of course it is always better that it was found now rather than later. But the recriminations begin immediately - why did the GP sit on it, the patient not complain more, the husband not notice something? Finding a polyp is usually without these implications. Just all good. Meant the decision to scope was correct. Potential future cancer can be avoided. And you get all the fun of zapping it. Finding ten polyps, when there are 4 people waiting is not good - too much pressure to be fast. So there it is, the is the tiny rectangle of pleasure that keeps you coming back: despite the wrist ache, the excruciatingly dull paperwork, the possibility always of doing it wrong in many many ways, the satisfaction of buzzing off a little polyp in someone's gut. My old boss said you were of surgical intent if you used to squeeze other people's spots as a teenager. I should have stuck to that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Filmmaking opportunity

MA Film/Media Postgraduate Scholarship National Institute for Excellence in the Creative Industries, Bangor University & MIND

Commencing October 2007

We aim to recruit a student who will work on a weekly basis with mental health service users in Anglesey, undertaking the following innovative film project:
• Overseeing a practical film-making project from pre- to post- production.
• Familiarizing service users with use of industry standard cameras, lighting and editing equipment.
• Working along with other professionals from NIECI facilitating scriptwriting and storyboarding workshops for the purpose of the film.
• Producing a significant piece of high-quality and original critical and/or creative research of publishable standard.

The student will be registered for an MA with the National Institute in 2007-2008 and their postgraduate fees will be paid.

Applications close: August 24th. Applicants can obtain further details from n.abrams@bangor.ac.uk or graeme.harper@bangor.ac.uk. Applications should take the form of a CV, including degree results and any relevant experience, along with a letter of interest.