The wellbeing of the surgical team: how we deal with death

10th June 2020 


The recent months have seen a huge upheaval for many surgeons. Some have been working in teams with which they are unfamiliar, others have been reassigned to help medical colleagues, and many will have seen their patients affected by COVID-19.

The wellbeing of our surgical members, fellows and Allied Health Professionals is paramount and we felt that discussing how we encounter and deal with death and dying, both as individuals and part of the wider surgical team, would be of particular help during this time.

Although this is something with which we will all be familiar, our two speakers aim to offer insights into how we can deal with stressful and difficult situations at work whilst protecting our own wellbeing. The webinar will start with a multidisciplinary panel discussion, followed by a talk on PTSD and acute psychological trauma by renowned Vascular and Trauma Surgeon David Nott, and a second talk on death and dying by acclaimed Palliative Care consultant Kathryn Mannix.

The session will conclude with a Q and A session where delegates can ask questions of the speakers.


Alice Hartley
Alice is a Urology trainee and chair of the RCSEd campaign to tackle undermining and bullying in surgery, #LetsRemoveIt. She is keen to promote the role of human factors in healthcare and as part of the anti-bullying work has helped to set up an anti-bullying alliance made up of over thirty NHS organisations. Her subspecialty interest is urological oncology and she has recently completed a PhD in the molecular biology of prostate cancer.

Kathryn Mannix
Dr Kathryn Mannix was palliative care lead in a large teaching hospital trust, where her team provided palliative care to patients under the care of a variety of surgical disciplines. She believes palliative care has a place in surgical care from diagnosis, during treatments with curative or palliative intent, through ICU and via the ward to home, rehabilitation and cure, or progression/relapse and end of life. She has been known to accompany surgeons in training on their morning rounds to bolster their symptom management knowledge, skills and confidence. She took early retirement to campaign for better public understanding and discussion of dying, and her book about the way people live while they are dying, With the End in Mind, was short-listed for the Wellcome Book Prize. She's still getting over her surprise.

David Nott OBE FRCS
David Nott is a Consultant Surgeon who has worked as a full-time in the NHS for almost 40 years. During this time he has also taken unpaid leave to work for various aid agencies sometimes up to 3 months a year  for the past 25 years.  He has witnessed the best and worst in humanity during this period of time both here and overseas.  His time in Aleppo in 2014 dealing with the almost every day sight of children being blown apart caused him to have a severe psychotic episode secondary to post-traumatic stress following his return from that six week mission.  Since that time he has set up a foundation to train doctors on the frontline and every year give scholarships over 25 is surgeons from all over the world to go on his surgical training for the austere environment course held at the Royal College of surgeons of England. He also takes a modified version called hostile environment surgical training to the front line and has trained over 800 surgeons in the last five years, the most recent training was in January 2020 in northern Yemen.

David Riding
RCSEd Trainees’ Committee Chair and Trainee Member of RCSEd Council

John Stirling RGN, MFPCEd
John is currently the Interim Head of Service for organ Donation and Nursing within NHS Blood and Transplant and has specific interests in Leadership, Workforce Development, Patient Safety and Human Performance in complex teams. In 2016 John took up post as National Perioperative Lead for the UK National Organ Retrieval Service before moving to become the Workforce Transformation Program Lead within NHS Blood and Transplant where he led programmes in clinical and organisational change within the service. John was awarded Membership of the Faculty of Perioperative Care of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) in November 2017 and was invited to join the RCSEd campaign steering group to tackle undermining and bullying in healthcare (#LetsRemoveIt) in 2018.

Tracey Williams
Tracey is the President for the Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP). She has dual qualifications as both a registered nurse and an operating department practitioner (ODP). She holds a 1st class honours degree in nursing, and a Master's in Education (Professional Practice) and is a registered nurse teacher with the NMC and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Tracey is currently employed as senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire where she delivers operating department practice modules and is course leader for the post graduate perioperative programme. Tracey is also an external examiner for other university perioperative courses. To maintain clinical skills, Tracey has an honorary contract with a local NHS Trust. She is active in the international arena delivering SAFE Operating Room education to developing countries and presenting at both national and international conferences. Her main areas of interest are the implementation standards for the safe delivery of high quality care peri-operative practice, professionalism and accountability within the perioperative environment.


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