Can I be a doctor or surgeon if I have Tourette’s?

Tics can cause problems for individuals, but doctors and surgeons have had successful careers with Tourette’s and tic disorders.

Evidence can be found on the Tourette Association of America’s Debunking Myths and Misconceptions page.

It is important to consider that Tourette and tic disorders vary from person to person, so this answer will be different for everyone.

Having TS or another tic disorder isn’t an instant disqualification.


Topics covered:

  • TS is on a spectrum
  • Understanding if specific tics will be problem
  • Example of a real surgeon with tics
  • Criteria will vary depending on country

Back to that TAA article

Myth number 9 on the Tourette Association of America’s article is:

People with TS can’t lead normal lives.

And although this is true for some, the organization makes us aware that many people with tics have not just lived a normal life, but a successful one.

Quote from TAA stating people with TS have become successful surgeons
Source: https://tourette.org/debunking-myths-misconceptions/

Doctors and Surgeons have different roles

The Royal College of Surgeons of England provides the following on their Qualification of a Surgeon page:

Quote from the RCSENG, stating that all surgeons must qualify as doctors
Source: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/patient-care/surgical-staff-and-regulation/qualifications-of-a-surgeon/

From this, I can see that (in England at least) every surgeon must first qualify as a doctor.

This means that if surgeons with Tourette’s have went on to have successful careers, so have doctors.

But surgeons and doctors roles vary. And because surgeons enter the human body, motor tics can cause a problem. This is why the answer varies for each individual.

Tics are on a spectrum

To say that those with tics cannot be surgeons, is like saying all workers in the Empire State Building cannot see outside because of the fog.

For some, that is certainly true. But for others it is pure fabrication.

Tic disorders are similar in that there are many blurred lines.

One sufferer may have a throat clearing tic a few times an hour. Someone else may blink every ten seconds. Someone else may punch themselves in the stomach with force.

It is clear that each of these individuals would be assessed differently, and some would find qualifying as a doctor or surgeon more difficult.

To answer this question for yourself, you must understand what tics would cause problems for you and cause difficulty in the role.

Dr. Morton Doran- a Surgeon with Tourette Syndrome

In 2014 a Calgary Surgeon retired. He received widespread recognition in the years prior to this for being a surgeon with Tourette Syndrome.

He was able to suppress tics in the operating theatre, something many people would struggle with.

Despite having Tourette Syndrome, he was able- and was trusted- to perform under pressure.

I have linked the inspirational article at the bottom of the post if you would like a read.

Like any profession, be honest with yourself and others

With more and more education and awareness on Tourette and other tic disorders, it is a better time than ever to be up front with having tics.

Not to mention, this is probably one of the best professions to be in, considering many of your fellow doctors and surgeons will be well aware of the condition.

A group of surgeons stand in a circle looking down to the camera

There is less chance of stigma in such a field, compared to other areas of employment and education.

Consider your tics and how they are in pressure situations

What tics do you have? Do they tend to worsen or reduce in times of concentration?

Do they tend to evolve over time and will you require regular assessments with a specialist?

Tics can vary in nature, frequency and intensity. This is why it is important to keep check on how they are at work, the same as when you are driving a car.

Do not let tics put you off achieving your goals

For some, tics will be too intense to perform in certain roles. But this is only in the most extreme cases and with specific tasks.

For most people, tics will be mild enough to perform tasks with little inconvenience.

Honesty is key, and an assessment will help to answer this question overall.

There is no better time to prove that not only do Tourette sufferers lead normal lives, they can very much excel in their specific fields.

Good luck in your education and career!


Sources:

  1. Debunking Myths and Misconceptions– Tourette Association of America
  2. Qualifications of a surgeon– rcseng.ac.uk
  3. Article on Dr. Morton Doran– Calgary Herald

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