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An interview with Janet McNally: Paediatric General Surgeon

We sat down with Janet McNally, who has worked in the Surgery & Theatres Service for over 20 years, to find out more about her role.

Janet McNally

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am one of four Paediatric General Surgeons at the Children’s Hospital and have worked here for 20 years. I completed my training as a surgeon and paediatric surgeon in South Africa and when my husband got a job in the Southwest I was fortunate to get a job at the Children’s Hospital.

Can you tell us a little bit about your Job role? Is there such a thing as an average week for you?

I am a consultant paediatric surgeon which is like a general surgeon for children. Contrary to what people usually think we do not spend all our time performing operations – probably on average only about two and half days a week are spent doing surgery. The rest of the time we are involved in clinics, teaching and just administrative work necessary in the management of our patients. Every six weeks, one of the team goes on-call, where we oversee all the emergency surgeries. The rest of the weeks are a routine with time divided between operating, clinics, teaching and administration. In between this we will be finding time to keep up to date in our areas of interest.

Who is in your team when you go in to theatre?

When I take a patient to theatre for an operation usually it will be myself and an assistant surgeon (usually one of the trainees training up to become a paediatric surgeon). We will have a special theatre scrub nurse to help with all the instruments we need. There will be the anaesthetist and their helper to put the patient to sleep and make sure they stay asleep during the operation and who will also be responsible for looking after the post-operative pain management.

You work across so many different wards, and see patients of so many different ages. What is the age range that you see?

Most of our patients will be based in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St Michael’s Hospital, in Penguin Ward or the Adolescent ward. It can be a bit surreal at times as one can go from operating on a premature baby who does not weigh much more than ½ a bag of sugar to operating on an adult sized teenager in one day!

What are the most common operations you perform?

I perform a large number of very common operations like hernia repairs but also have areas which are my specific areas of interest which I specialise in e.g. bowel problems in small children and in some congenital chest problems.

Tell us about the most complex operations that you perform.

Some of the most complex operations that I perform are things like to creating a new bottom in children born without an anus, re-establishing continuity of the oesophagus (gullet) in babies born with blockages and removing segments of the lung in babies born with an abnormally developed lung.

What is your favourite part of the job?

For me the best part is working with babies and children as well as with all the other dedicated people at the Children’s Hospital who are all working to make life better for children with surgical conditions.

Channel swim consultants

Janet and colleagues from the hospital conquered a channel swim last year for The Grand Appeal

You are considered a fundraising hero after you smashed a group channel swim last summer! It raised a fantastic amount of money to fund a Specialist Bereavement Space. What made you want to dedicate your time to this epic challenge for the hospital?

I love open water swimming and loved the challenge of preparing for such an iconic swim with other doctors that I work with at the Children’s Hospital. The fact that we could do something we loved and enjoyed and raise money for our patients and their parents made it all the more special.