HomeKnow-How3 ways being a surgeon prepared me for running my own startup

3 ways being a surgeon prepared me for running my own startup

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by guest writer Dr Owain Rhys Hughes, CEO and Founder of Cinapsis.

In the operating room, as a surgeon, every decision carries high stakes. It’s a pressured role that demands meticulous attention to detail, but the rewarding impact you can make is immense.

When I pivoted my career and turned my hand to technology by launching my own health tech startup, I was surprised to discover just how closely the same principles held true.

In light of the growing demand for digital solutions to some of the challenges facing our healthcare systems, many clinicians are turning their hands to innovation using their firsthand experience and skills. While you don’t have to be a clinician to run a successful health tech startup, I’ve found the skills I learned as a surgeon to be invaluable as I’ve navigated the startup world.

Here are the three biggest skills I learned as a surgeon that have helped me as a founder, and which I hope might help others taking the leap into entrepreneurship too:

Precision and attention to detail

As a surgeon, my training has instilled in me a deep sense of precision and attention to detail. These qualities transcend the operating room and are equally as vital in the world of entrepreneurship. Here, success hinges on identifying and addressing the fine detail and nuance of issues to help develop an effective solution.

Attention to detail has been instrumental in all aspects of my role as a health tech founder. From understanding the different factors at play in the problems we are trying to solve for clinicians to ensure that the way we are designing and developing our product acknowledges and directly addresses these. This is vital for ensuring that our solution really works for the clinicians who will be using it in practice, and helps deliver meaningful care outcomes and improvements.

The best way for health tech founders to achieve this is through fostering close partnerships and collaboration with their clients. This enables you to develop a complete understanding of their expectations and the unique challenges they are facing. At Cinapsis, we maintain a continuous partnership with the NHS services using our platform, supporting them as their needs and challenges evolve. This collaboration enables us to keep an eye on the detail and adapt and evolve our solution in line with clinicians’ needs to consistently deliver genuine impact.

Ability to think on my feet

In the operating room, quick decision-making is crucial as circumstances can change in an instant. I became used to thinking on my feet and relying on my prior knowledge and instinct to make tough calls when needed. This experience has proven just as valuable in the fast-paced world of startups, whereas a founder I have had to make many important decisions, often on a tight or time-sensitive schedule.

As a founder, it’s essential to embrace a flexible mindset to help you confront challenges head-on. Look ahead and be prepared for the unexpected. Plan for different scenarios in advance where possible, to help inform those bigger decisions when they come along. And surround yourself with a strong network of mentors and fellow founders to provide you with guidance and valuable insights that can support you in those critical moments. Then, when it’s time to take those big calls, you can feel confident to trust your instinct and make the right decision.

Juggling multiple time pressures and demands

Having experienced the demanding schedules of both a surgeon and a startup founder, I understand the high level of dedication that comes with their respective roles. As a surgeon I have dedicated long hours in the operating room, often working nights, and weekends and being on call for emergencies.

Similarly, I know that building a startup from the ground up demands a significant amount of dedication and time commitment. Indeed, my ambition to fulfil our mission at Cinapsis has also required me to juggle a number of different roles, from product development to marketing, and team management.

Through both these experiences, I have learned to be mindful of how I’m managing a vast number of different pressures and demands. Making sure I’m prioritising effectively and setting aside time to switch off when needed has helped me to maintain a healthy work-life balance and keep on top of the demanding workload. I encourage my team to do the same, and together we ensure that we’re all able to sustainably manage the pressures and deadlines along the way.

Just as with any successful surgery, a thriving business requires careful planning, execution, and a leader who can confidently adapt to high-pressure situations. The skills I have gained from both surgery and entrepreneurship have proven invaluable. To be a successful leader in either, it’s essential to nurture these skills, surround yourself with the right support and be prepared to adapt to whatever challenges are thrown your way.

Owain Rhys Hughes
Owain Rhys Hughes
Dr Owain Rhys Hughes is a NHS surgeon and Founder and CEO of health tech start-up Cinapsis, which works with NHS Trusts across England to help streamline referrals, boost collaboration and speed up access to urgent care.

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