As Surgery is still a largely male-dominated field, it might seem as if women do not ‘have what it takes’ to make it in this field. But the truth is that surgery is a very diverse field in which all kinds of skills and traits are needed – none of which are determined by the shape of one’s genitalia. So what are the characteristics required for working in Surgery? Here is what men and women working in this field think.
“There needs to be a cross-section of personality types because there are different sorts of operating and different sorts of operating suit different sorts of people. I was never going to be an orthopaedic surgeon. It was never the kind of operating that I enjoyed. It has less patient contact, I think. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but they have less patient contact, I think, and that suits them as personalities. It does need different horses for the different courses in Surgery.”
“You’ve got to have the mind to do it. You have to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. You’ve got to be organized and meticulous. You have to have a love for detail. You’ve got to be meticulous about every little thing because it all counts. Being female helps. I don’t want to be stereotypical, but you’ve got the empathic way and you relate to patients, you can ease them. Because when you’re doing surgery day-to-day you forget what a big deal it is for patients. You see patients going in and coming out of the theatre all the time but for them it’s the first time they stepped into a hospital and they are going to hear all these scare stories and it’s about them having faith in you as a caring physician. I think surgery is not about just getting and done ‘let’s whip it out, stitch them and close them up’. It’s the whole holistic approach. And I think being female has helped getting that holistic side into surgery.”
“On the technical side you have to be a good technician. You have to be technically very good and that’s independent [of gender]. Maybe because women have smaller hands and are more precise sometimes, they are better at doing fine surgery. But it depends very much on the character. On the personal side, I think most women have a lot of empathy. I’m not saying that most men don’t have a lot of empathy, but it’s probably a more female characteristic and it helps you do the job.”
“It’s not very feminine to play with hammers and drills and things and people suggest you need muscle power but that’s why there are machines. You can find a way to manipulate bones. The main thing is to know how to do it, not to have the muscle power.”
“We (women) have in spades what you need to do the job. We can team work, we can communicate, we have great manual dexterity. But what we bring to the table mostly is a lack of ego. It’s a view towards collaboration, it’s a view towards the patient: This is a patient, this is not about me; this is not about my private practice; this is not about me being the most successful or most powerful person in the world. And I think women are much more able to focus on that aspect of care – at least more readily. The blokes do it, but it takes them a little bit more of a journey to get there.”