Preparing for a List in Another Specialty

At this time of the year, we’re often asked to assist in specialties in which we may not have our core skill set.

It’s common for an assistant to be contacted urgently by a practice manager who has “received your name from such-and-such” in order to assist in their surgeon’s unexpected, ad-hoc list.

Before saying yes, consider the following:

  1. Is will accept this list add significantly to your time? (after all, it’s the holiday season for your loved ones too)
  2. Surgical Assistant who say yes during Christmas and other low availability times are often remembered fondly by practice managers when they update their lists and call schedules.
  3. It is really great way to get to know your surgeons and have your name established in that particular specialty. This is particularly important if you are a junior unaccredited registrar wanting to move into that specialty, or you’re interested in the types of lists that specialty offers.

After accepting a list in a different specialty, there are some ways that you can prepare in order that you can arrive and perform to your best abilities. Consider the following:

1.) When a surgeon is operating with a different team, it could be stressful - if not to the surgeon, then to other members of the team until they're sure of what you can do.

2.) Often the surgical team will anticipate that you’ll be slower than the usual assistant and they might not have work with a different assistant for a very long time.

3.) Regard your lack of familiarity with an operation as a potential source of risk in the operation (eg unprotected nerves, pulled vessels and dropped implants…). There are steps that you can do in order to reduce this risks in the future (see our article “Preparing for a List”).

4.) You may need more time in order to prepare for this particular specialty. In some specialties, it’s ok to turn up 15 minutes before the operation; in other specialties (and theaters), you expect that you're there at least half an hour before the operation to assist with films, patient transfer, IDC insertion and general theater preparation of the patient.

Remember general theater courtesy: if it's a new specialty and a new theater and a new hospital to you and a new surgeon then it’s like starting from the beginning. Read our article “Theatre Courtesy” if you need a refresh!

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