Jessica watched Stackson walk away. Her head was pumping with the offense, the latent chauvinism, the hurt caused by his words. Dennis the charge nurse was at her arm trying to apologise or explain or something, but Jessica moved away from him to follow her consultant. She caught him at a turn in the corridor. Patients were being wheeled past. A few members of staff, who looked up briefly and nodded if they recognised either of them.
“Excuse me, Mr Stackson.”
He turned abruptly. His eyes were unfocussed, as though his thoughts were elsewhere, way beyond the hospital’s walls. But his expression remained unsympathetic. “Yes, what Jessica?” She found the use of her name quite disarming. But she allowed her anger to embolden her.
“The way you spoke to me just then. I found it very… embarrassing. I had no control over that patient’s admission overnight.”
“It’s not just that Jessica. It’s your whole approach to managing patients here… not medically, I mean making sure that things happen when they are supposed to. Scans. Bookings.”
“My style is not confrontational, I admit it. But i’m afraid Mr Stackson you can’t always have your patients first on scanning lists or in theatre, there are many other teams…”
“It’s what I expect on my firm. Sorry.”
“I wish you had been able to explain that without…”
“Look. This is a tough area. Sometimes you have to…”
“Accept you’re not well suited? Do you think I can be a surgeon?”
Now she had put him on the spot, it was for him to say yes or no. He had to commit.
“You’re technique is…”
“I am careful. I can speed up.”
“And you can’t take offence when your consultants get frustrated, if you do you will burn yourself up. I see it all the time with you…”
He would not confirm that this was what he meant. He looked at his watch. Somewhere to be, as usual. Jessica gave up. He was as rude as ever.
“I have got to go Jessica, my wife… “ But he did not bother to explain what pressing engagement required him to leave in the middle of the morning.
Jessica walked back to the ward, pleased that she had confronted him. Stackson had said nothing to rule out a future in surgery for her. All her ‘weaknesses’, including her operative speed and technique, were modifiable.
She could, and she would, do it.