I love working in Plastic Surgery because it is the embodiment of why I decided to pursue a career in medicine. You get to mix science with the humanities.
I deal with such a range of people - all age groups, neonates to elderly, male and female, and all sorts of conditions, from benign to life threatening. The type of surgery I do involves all tissue types - skin, muscle, bone, tendons and alloplastic materials such as silicone, metal, bio-engineered skin replacements. In short, no two days are ever the same! It is never boring working in Plastic Surgery because we tailor the treatment to the individual case of the patient, and because of the nature of the surgery we have to be able to make change things and even make things up as we go along.
I particularly like working at Middlemore because of the people. During my training, every time I returned to Middlemore, I felt like I was returning home. I don't consider the people I work with to be colleagues, but rather they are my friends and everyone here is valued.
In order to train as a Plastic Surgeon you need to be accepted onto the SET Training programme run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. It is a lot easier to get accepted into the programme as a non training Registrar as opposed to being a House Officer. It is currently a 5 year programme with an exit exam at the end. Once this is completed, you are finally a Consultant - and qualified to listen!
New consultants generally go overseas for further sub-speciality training. This training can take place wherever you want (or have arranged). The UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Taiwan are amongst some of the places our consultants have trained in. This means that doctors working in our Department receive a truly international and cutting edge education. Our trainees learn the latest techniques and become very well rounded due to this cosmopolitan and international influence.
This job has allowed me to see so much of the world. I get to travel to some very exotic places for conferences, teaching and lectures. In the space of four months I have already been to Hong Kong, Hamburg, Boston, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch. I was also supposed to go to London but this was cancelled due to the ash cloud in Iceland, which was just as well otherwise I would have forgotten what Auckland looks like!
At Middlemore, the team is like a family. We enjoy working together and plan 'team building' events such as laser strike or movies. We also interact together outside of work particularly at conferences where there is a strong understanding of what "goes on tour, stays on tour"!
Working in Auckland provides our trainees with fantastic opportunities. Middlemore is one of only four places in the country that offers Plastic Surgery. It is also the site of the National Burn Centre, where the sickest, sadest and badest burn injuries come. My sub-specialty.
The University of Auckland Medical School had a clinical school at Middlemore Hospital, and so there is a constant flux of students to teach. There is also many opportunities for research and teaching.
Working in Plastic Surgery is a fantastic lifestyle but not for everyone. Be sure of your decision before you enter the Plastic Surgery training programme. You need to be the type of person that is comfortable with uncertainty and thinking on your feet. Be prepared for long hours and remember that this is not a 9am-5pm speciality. The rewards, however, are huge, not necessarily financial, but it is a very motivating and rewarding speciality. As I said in the beginning, it encompasses everything I wanted to get out of medicine - and it may be for you too.