A Ward Round with the Professor of Surgery

The registrars, house staff and the medical students waited in line. Each had an eye on the clock above the nurse’s station. In one minute it would be 6.30 pm.

Right on cue, the double doors to the ward swung open. A couple of visitors stood aside as the Professor marched up the corridor. The woman was heard to say with a pleasant smile, “Oh, we’d better move out the way, he seems very important!”.

The Professor, mid stride, turned his head and gruffly said with his own attempt at a smile, “Ha, that’s right, you’d better believe it!”. The registrars, house surgeons and medical students each took in a deep breathe like a team of synchronized swimmers.

“OK, let’s get this show on the road.” said the Professor. “Where’s my House Dog?”, he said.

“I’m here, Professor”, said the house surgeon.

“No, no, I mean the funny-looking man with the beard.”

“Oh, I shaved it off, Professor.”

“Alright then, who’s first.”

“Mr. Arbuckle, Professor”.

The professorial train departed from the corridor and stopped at the first bed. A somewhat startled man peered over neatly folded bed sheets, his eyebrows seemed in need of a good stretch.

Look, Mr. Arbuckle. I’m the Professor. You’re no good the way you are. So tomorrow, I’m going to fix you. There are some risks, but you don’t need to worry about them. OK? See you tomorrow.

Mr. Arbuckle didn’t so much as blink and then the Professor was gone. The same refrain echoed throughout the ward as the professorial train stopped at patient after patient, bed after bed.

Then there was a problem. Bed 19 was empty.

“Well, well. We seem to have an escapee. Where’s Mr. Braithwaite?”. The Professor grinned as he surveyed the ward.

A young nurse nervously pointed to the bathroom, “I think he’s using the toilet, Professor.”

“Right, right, I see”, said the Professor.

Without any hesitation, he hauled the professorial train over to the bathroom door and flung it open.

So there you are Mr. Braithwaite! I thought you had made your escape.

Mr. Braithwaite appeared surprisingly unsurprised as he sat in comfort on his porcelain throne. He said nothing. Only the Professor spoke.

Look, Mr. Braithwaite. I’m the Professor. You’re no good the way you are. So tomorrow, I’m going to fix you. There are some risks, but you don’t need to worry about them. OK? See you tomorrow.

The Professor closed the bathroom door. He checked his watch.

Any questions?

He cast his eyes from carriage to carriage along the now stationary professorial train. There was no response.

Good, good. Then I’ll see you all tomorrow.

With that, the Professor left and the pre-operative ward round was concluded.

As the registrars, house surgeons and medical students readied themselves to leave, Mrs. Thornley in bed 17 tugged on the sleeve of the nearest medical student. She spoke with a sense of awe:

What’s it like to work with the Professor? You’re so lucky to be able to learn from him… He did my last operation. Look at this scar on my neck… you can’t even see it can you? Oh, his hands are a gift from God.

The medical student nodded and went home.

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also the Innovation Lead for the Australian Centre for Health Innovation at Alfred Health and Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of two amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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