Surgical instrument design: understanding surgeons’ needs, hopes and fears
I never wanted to be a surgeon when I was growing up. I still don’t. But in my career as a product designer working on surgical instrument design, I have spent a lot of time in the presence of surgeons and I can honestly say it is one of the professions that I most admire.
Only twice in my life have I personally been under the knife. The first time was in 1989 to realign a fractured nasal bone, while the second time was 30 years later with the excision of a small basal cell carcinoma on the same, said nose. During the latter experience, I was conscious and able to converse with the consultant dermatological surgeon while he delicately and expertly removed a tiny piece of my face. He exuded everything that I have come to admire and respect from surgeons: professionalism, efficiency, confidence, empathy, craftmanship, charisma and charm.
Thankfully, the majority of occasions I’ve spent with surgeons has been in my line of work, observing them in user studies, not under their knife. When working on surgical instrument design, my primary aim is to understand how surgeons operate and work. By observing them, we can get a feel for their working environment, appreciate the challenges that they sometimes face in their day-to-day lives and consider how we can make their lives easier by improving the surgical equipment they use. After 25 years in the industry, I have learnt that we must continue to work closely with surgeons to understand what drives them. So, what do surgeons look for when it comes to surgical instrument design and surgical device development?