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Behind Closed Doors: My Fellow Americans
Why the next president should come from the OR.
Paula Watkins
Publish Date: November 3, 2015   |  Tags:   Opinion
Nurse for president

Our next president could be a surgeon. Republican candidate Ben Carson, MD, was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R), MD, is an ophthalmic surgeon.

I'm the first to admit that I don't know a lot about politics. But if the qualifications for running for President of the United States include having loads of money and the confidence that your ideas will work — make that, the absolute conviction that your ideas are the only logical, possible course of action — then it actually seems like it would be a pretty good fit for a surgeon. The president serves as the head of state, chief executive and commander-in-chief. It must take a pretty sturdy ego to fill those shoes. Do we know anyone with one of those? Also, the old surgical saying "A chance to cut is a chance to cure" bodes well for a hands-on approach to managing the economy and cutting through bureaucracy. (Physicians who double as ASC and practice owners are particularly concerned with making the numbers work.)

There may be some rough edges that need sanding down. Even if the surgeon chooses an anesthesiologist as his vice president, he can't send the patient off to dreamland this time to mask the pain while he performs his repairs. Diplomacy may be a thorny process, since it's hard to imagine him compromising on outcomes. He'd better think twice about which vendors he welcomes into his office, and about how he treats the students who visit him at work. (Those tell-all books will eventually emerge.)

If we ruled the world
When it comes right down to it, though, why limit the field of presidential candidates to physicians? In surgery we have enough Type A personalities to rule the world. And clearly many of them know how to play the game of politics, for good and for ill. Consider the following:

  • We make laws (and oversee defense and foreign policy). A committee of OR nurses drafts the policy that aims to prevent surgeons from attacking scrub techs with airborne surgical instruments and other foreign objects.
  • We're diplomatic experts. Circulators manage difficult relations with surgeons, deliver sensitive care to patients and keep all the moving parts of OR technology on track, all day, every day.
  • We delegate resources. Surgical services directors decide which staff will be stationed in which ORs for which cases. They also appoint staff to serve on committees and handle tasks they'd rather not dirty their own hands with.
  • We practice patronage. Ever met a co-worker who got her job or promotion despite the fact that she doesn't have the experience for it? Have you ever noticed the charge nurse giving special favors to some staff on the call schedule? Sure you have.

So I ask you, my fellow Americans: Are we overlooking the true talent to lead? A nurse would have a wide base of voter support, given our numbers in the workplace. Dealing with Congress would be nothing compared to surgeons. A Southern nurse could tell hostile foreign nations where to go and they'd be asking for directions. But the first order of business would be fixing the healthcare system, just as long as we have more than silk tape to do it with.