Unlikely managers

Surgeon Peter McDonald, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When did you become a manager?

When I became a gastroenterological surgeon 28 years ago. I realised my work was all about managing people, often in desperate circumstances. I've been consultant general surgeon at Northwick Park for 12 years.

What does management mean to you?

It means negotiating resource allocation. A hospital is different from a company - you can't control demand and you have a fixed budget. So every patient is a loss. As a surgeon, I have moral authority and a leadership position in the operating theatre that enables me to manage up to 15 people to get a patient through. Quite often, my work will be disrupted by emergencies, but if a patient is bleeding to death, that's my priority. It's like being a pilot - once you're in the air, you can bugger the management because they can't get at you.

What do you love/hate about it?

It's an incredible feeling to turn a dying patient into a living one. I hate the stress when things don't go to plan, but we cope by sharing the problems; the medical profession is very cohesive.

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