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The challenges of being a parent and a surgeon

The challenges of being a parent and a surgeon

Posted on: 16-01-2018

 

Laura Hamilton, Orthopaedic Hand Fellow at King’s College Hospital, talks about the challenges of being both a parent and a surgeon, the full article will be published in the RCSE Bulletin in July.

 

What inspired you to write this piece?

Whilst I was a London T&O trainee I had 2 babies so became the local expert on how to manage orthopaedic training whilst pregnant! I got so many calls from other female trainees who were planning children or were pregnant that I created a factsheet. When I started getting contacted by pregnant surgical trainees in other specialities I thought it would be worthwhile to formalise the advice into a referenced scientific paper for general publication. I initially sent it to the BMJ who could not publish the paper but wanted to use it as the basis for a piece on careers advice.

 

What do you think the biggest challenges of being a parent and surgeon are?

There are many challenges being a parent and a surgeon! I find it difficult to switch off in the evening and give my children my full attention and often have to organise paperwork or research or answer calls. It was particularly hard when I was completing my MSc and taking the FRCS exams when they would sneak in to see me but I had to send them away so I could concentrate. Childcare is difficult due to the long hours so I miss out on most of their day and don’t know their friends or other parents from school. The advantage is that they have a very good work ethic and are proud to tell their friends that their mummy is a doctor who helps people.

 

What advice would you give to mothers considering a career in surgery?

My advice to mothers considering a career in surgery is to look closely at the hours and the lifestyle, and if it’s something you love then follow your dream. There’s no reason why you can’t be a mother and a surgeon. Having children has certainly made me more patient and compassionate with my patients. I also find it easier to communicate with children and their parents.

 

What do you think the key is to balancing work/home life?

I think the key to balancing your life is having good childcare that you trust, who can teach them and cuddle them during the day when you’re not there. A lot of people like to go part-time but I didn’t have the patience to extend my training even further! It’s also important to give your children your full attention when you do see them, and have fun together so they have memories other than saying goodbye to you as you go to work! For example I used my orthopaedic skills to build my children a treehouse! You also have to stand up for yourself at work and leave on time if you need to, colleagues with any sense know that your children should always come first.

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