I have now nearly completed 16 years in my private practice of cosmetic plastic surgery in NYC. Most of what I see and do was not shaped by my college or medical school education. Not even what I learned in my general and plastic surgery training makes up a fraction of the knowledge base needed to run an effective and efficient medical practice.
Learning how to do a surgery is something that is usually not tremendously difficult. The technical skills are basic and well ingrained from formal training. The presurgical evaluation and consult require a bit more finesse and aptitude.
I used to think that the consult was to make sure the patient was a good candidate for the procedure, and understood the process involved. Additionally, I was auditioning for the patient to make sure that they wanted me as opposed to the 1000’s of others available in the New York Area. Not so much. It is to insure good patient selection as to not only fitness physically for the surgery, but emotionally and realistically.
Some patients believe that plastic surgery does not leave any marks, that breasts can defy gravity forever, and that having a flat stomach requires no diet or exercise. Others believe that there results are bad if their spouse cheats on them or if jealous friends tease her. Figuring this out before surgery is the key.
After surgery, support and encouragement are crucial. I used to think I could remove the dressings and sutures and send them on their way, as that is all I needed to do physically. It took a few minutes, then on to the next. I was wrong.
After surgery, patients can be nervous. They do not feel beautiful. They need my support as a person, not a doctor. And so I changed my schedule to leave more time for them. Because that is what it is all about- taking care of patients means taking care of people.