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Open heart surgery › Day in the life

Surgeon Francis Wells

Surgeon Francis Wells

Mr Francis Wells is a cardiothoracic surgeon at Papworth Hospital, in Cambridge. We spent a day with Francis to find out what his job at the hospital entails. He is called Frank by many of his friends and colleagues.

Video: Highlights of Frank's day

Frank arrives at the hospital

Frank leaves the house early and makes his way to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

Frank arrives at the hospital and goes to his office to drop off his suitcase. He then immediately heads for theatres, where he changes into his scrubs. He has three mitral valve repairs on his list today – each case normally takes between two and three hours.

'We need to keep things moving a bit. Three in one day in one theatre is quite a lot, so we need to keep everybody 'geed' up a bit,' says Frank.

Frank grabs a quick cup of tea in the theatre café and catches up with colleagues. At this point his patient has been anaesthetised and has been taken into theatre where the surgical team is preparing everything for the operation.

Frank goes into theatre and checks on his team. He then scrubs up.

When the patient is ready, Frank goes into theatre and checks on his team. He then scrubs up.

During the operation Frank operates alongside his registrar, Betsy.

Two of his students join the operating theatre to observe. He talks to them and his team throughout the operation.

'These two students are attached to me for five weeks and in that time there's a responsibility to make sure it's productive and meaningful for them,' says Frank. 'Whatever I'm doing, they're with me all day.'

When the surgery is complete Frank de-robes, leaving Betsy to close up. He heads to the intensive care unit, next to the theatres, to check on the patients he operated on in the previous 48 hours. He discusses each case with the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) team, finds out how they are getting on and advises on how to continue with their treatment.

During the operation Frank operates alongside his registrar, Betsy.

Frank then heads to the theatre café with his two students. He catches up with them over tea, finding out how their study is going and talking about the surgery they are observing.

After the catch up, Frank returns to his office where he has about 30 minutes to make phone calls and answer e-mails before the next operation starts.

Frank gets called back to theatre for the second mitral valve operation. He goes straight into the operating theatre, scrubs up and starts his second case of the day.

After completing the second case, Frank de-robes and heads back to his office for lunch. He has around one hour in the office to do his paperwork and make phone calls.

Frank meets up with his students

'You can often end up with an hour, an hour and a half between each case, but then there's a lot of office work needs to be done, patients to be seen on the ward.'

Frank then spends 20 minutes with his secretary going through his diary and signing various forms.

It's now time for the third case of the day, and Frank is called back to the operating theatre.

After finishing his third case, Frank has a short break outside. He feels that all three cases have gone very well today. But his working day isn't over yet. Frank has to carry out emergency surgery on a case that can't wait, so he will be operating on them this evening.

Frank has a short break outside

'I would quite like to stop now but you can't walk away from the task. You have to do whatever needs to be done,' says Frank. 'This is one of the beauties of being in Papworth. We can come outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine and a nice view to help clear our minds before we start again.'

Later that evening, Frank starts the emergency case which lasts over two hours.

Finally Frank leaves hospital and heads for home.

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