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Miss Claire Hopkins DM FRCS (ORL-HNS)

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Here are some other stories from ENT surgeons across the country about their day to day life.

I work as Consultant Rhinologist at Guy’s & St Thomas’, a large teaching hospital in central London. So, I only do the N of ENT, but having become very subspecialised, probably have a larger proportion of more complex rhinological cases than more general ENT surgeons. My last operating list was a good example; an open septorhinoplasty on a young, attractive female circus performer, who needed reconstruction of the nasal valve after trauma from fire swallowing, a 62 year old man with a massive exophytic tumour growing from his nose that had completely obstructed his mouth and eyes (the specimen weighed in at 1kg), a revision endoscopic sinus operation on a patient who had suffered an orbital complication during his first surgery elsewhere, and whose orbital contents had prolapsed into his sinuses, followed by a couple more routine bits and pieces. About half my work-load comes from other ENT centres, which is challenging, rewarding, slightly scary at times and both very flattering and a great privilege. It brings some great patients to my care, providing opportunities to continually extend my own surgical expertise, as well as training our registrars, fellows and other visitors to the department

The downside of being so specialised is that after a day in outpatients, I sometimes feel as if I am drowning in snot – probably at least half of the patients I seen in clinic have post-nasal drip. The greatest challenge in clinic is probably trying to convince patients that not all facial pain is sinusitis. I still see some of the more general ENT conditions in clinic, and need to keep up to date, but refer to colleagues if head and neck or otological surgery is required. There is still great diversity even just within the nose –the contrast of the aims and challenges of cosmetic surgery, open tumour work and endoscopic skull base work means I will certainly never get bored.

Another advantage of sub-specialising is that my case mix and the experience I have gained is often called upon in invitations to lecture internationally. In the last year I have been to Stockholm, Milan, Toulouse, Miami, New York, Barcelona and am about to embark on a lecture tour in Australia. I have made good friends and colleagues all around the world, resulting in collaborations on research, and some great nights out in exotic locations. I have also been fortunate to be involved in writing guidelines both nationally and internationally on the management of rhinosinusitis, and have active ongoing research projects, which means I can perhaps influence current and future practice.

Private practice mirrors my NHS work, but the nicest part is that the patients have actively sought me out, having looked at my interests and experience.

It is not all glamour and excitement – I do work exceptionally hard, and have done so throughout my training to get here. My family probably doesn’t see as much of me as they would like (I have 2 lovely kids, aged 10 and 7, and a very understanding husband), but I am never away for birthdays, and I have been to every sports day and nativity play. I work until midnight at least 3 nights a week after the kids are asleep to keep on top of correspondence and research projects, and often work at the weekends. I did a higher degree while the children were very young, which was hard work, but did give some flexibility in terms of hours while I was in full time research. I also spent 2 years in a Fellowship post having completed my registrar training in order to gain sufficient experience to do the job I have now.

While the saying ‘Chose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’, is a little trite, I genuinely love what I do, and can happily recommend a career in ENT to anyone considering it.


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