The Lonesome Kicker/Surgeon
“One might think it comes with glory. You might think different after you listen to my story,” – The Lonesome Kicker by Adam Sandler.
Adam Sandler wrote the above-mentioned song in showing some sympathy to a group of football players who seem to either be the source of a team’s praises or the brunt of all frustration. In fact, the best a kicker can ever really hope for is to not be noticed at all because that means they’re simply performing as everyone expects.
Make a game-winning field goal and you’re the hero for about 15 minutes. Miss that same kick and you might be looking for a new job next week. The past doesn’t matter, nor do other elements which might have impacted that one single play. Right or wrong, a pro football kicker is judged solely on each single, game-impacting action.
Although Sandler’s lyrics positioned this group as outcasts, they could probably find some brothers and sisters-in-arms within the surgical community. While I’m not looking to defend those who have abused their roles as healthcare providers, it’s a fact that doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, etc. are easy targets when OR results don’t mesh with the expectations of patients and their families. While I’m sure each of you can point to personal examples, what really set the tone for me was a recent case where the family of an elderly and severely obese woman died after surgical complications.
Instead of realizing that the woman’s age and poor health were the primary factors in her unfortunate passing, the family tried to sue the hospital. They lost and were actually ordered to pay the defendant’s legal bills.
On the flip side of this situation, unless extreme or life-threatening dynamics are involved, the countless number of successful surgical procedures are rarely celebrated and certainly not acknowledged on a level commensurate with those where a mistake is made. Just like the kicker in football, a successful outcome is viewed simply as what the surgeon and all those in the OR are paid to do. Both, it would seem, have become victims of their peer’s collective success.
Granted, all those in the OR understand and embrace the responsibilities of their positions, and usually relish in the opportunity to provide them. However, we’ve already seen how issues like malpractice insurance, heightened educational costs, constant battles with insurance companies and now general attitudes towards surgical teams that border more on privilege than appreciation have made surgical careers less and less appealing to many of the brightest medical minds.
If this continues to be the case, then our populous is responsible for the worst shank-job in history.
The genesis for this appreciation, and the ensuing attraction to surgical careers, needs to start from within. While patient education is usually a perfect example of the “leading a horse to water” cliché, in this case a greater emphasis on information could drive home the significance of everything OR personnel address relative to and in addition to the actual procedure. So, for example, while discussing all the precautions taken to prevent HAIs are rarely touted to patients in fear of exposing (educating) them to everything that can go wrong, maybe more of this is necessary in order for these procedures and surgical professionals to garner the commensurate respect.
Made field goals are rarely part of a highlight reel, but maybe it’s time to start appreciating the snap, the hold and the perfect outcome. Sometimes those three points make all the difference in the world, even for the “easiest” of kicks.
Do you feel like the lonesome surgeon? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org