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Ross Fisher: What surgeons wish you knew from DFTB17


This talk was recorded live on the final day of DFTB17 in Brisbane.

What more can be said about Ross Fisher that hasn’t already been said? Passionate presenter, good (but not perfect*) surgeon and friend to the stars – in this talk, Ross delves into the hidden world of paediatric surgery.

Surgeons often come across as a different breed within the medical community, with unique behaviours, thoughts, and priorities that set them apart. Ross Fisher’s talk, “What every surgeon wishes you knew,” presented at DFTB17, provides an insightful perspective into the world of surgeons.

Understanding the Surgeon’s World

  1. Distinct Communication: Fisher acknowledges that surgeons have a distinctive way of communicating. He highlights the importance of key phrases and vocabulary that may seem familiar but hold different meanings in the surgical context. For instance, accurately understanding terms like “can’t get above it” or “transillumination” is crucial for effective communication between surgical and non-surgical professionals.
  2. Pathophysiology Perspective: Surgeons approach medical problems from a distinct pathophysiological perspective. They visualize, touch, and interact with the physical manifestations of diseases and conditions. This approach contrasts with the more metaphysical thinking of other medical professionals, such as paediatricians, intensivists, and physicians.

Key Phrases Make a Difference

  1. Interpreting Key Phrases: Fisher emphasizes the significance of understanding key phrases in surgical practice. For instance, “green vomit” in paediatrics signifies a bile-stained vomit, often linked to conditions like malrotation. The ability to differentiate between normal and abnormal green vomit can influence treatment decisions and patient outcomes.
  2. Challenges of “Normal”: Fisher discusses the ambiguity of the term “normal” in medical practice. Every patient’s baseline may differ, and what is considered normal for one individual might not be the same for another. This recognition is especially crucial when assessing bowel habits and other aspects of patient health.

Diverse Thinking and Biases

  1. Thinking Differently: Surgeons think differently due to their unique training and experiences. Fisher highlights that surgeons think in terms of physicality, drawing parallels between surgery and artistry. Their ability to manipulate tissues and solve complex anatomical puzzles sets them apart from other medical professionals.
  2. Biases and Cognitive Disposition: Fisher delves into biases that medical professionals possess, known as cognitive dispositions to respond. He emphasizes recognizing biases and understanding that colleagues may hold them is essential for effective teamwork and patient care. Blind spot bias is particularly pertinent, where one can see biases in others but not themselves.

Building Collaborative Relationships

  1. Breaking Stereotypes: Fisher challenges the stereotype of surgeons as arrogant, aggressive, and disconnected. He sheds light on the emotional toll surgery can take, citing the profound impact of surgical failures and complications on surgeons. By understanding and humanizing surgeons, medical professionals can foster more effective collaborations.
  2. Improving Communication: Fisher encourages medical professionals to communicate better, work together, and embrace interdisciplinary approaches. By acknowledging each other’s expertise and perspectives, healthcare teams can provide more comprehensive and effective patient care.

Ross Fisher’s talk highlights the unique world of surgeons and offers insights into their distinct thinking, communication styles, and biases. By recognizing and embracing these differences, medical professionals can bridge the understanding gap, promote effective collaboration, and ultimately enhance patient outcomes. Remembering that all medical professionals, regardless of specialization, share a common goal – providing the best patient care – can contribute to a more cohesive and harmonious healthcare environment.

* Please look at his keynote from DFTB17 if you don’t know what we are on about.

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