Fingers have Eyes

Main description:

AB: “What proverbs did you learn from your time working at different hospitals with different surgeons and doctors? I’m sure sayings like “Measure twice, cut once” crop up in surgery and in med school.”

JB: “Hm, yes, definitely. There’s all kinds of proverbs, but they’re just… so hard to remember. Oh, I’ve got one that I’ve repeated a few times myself. I must have been, oh, probably a fourth year resident a private hospital in England. I had a, um, abdomen dissection case with this surgeon. We, uh, we called him the King, because this kinda dissection is very very difficult. You’re operating in an area that you can’t see very well, and that has lots of very little, very fragile blood vessels. One wrong move there and you’re getting sued for malpractice. Anyways, he does this dissection without a hitch, and I was just amazed. I asked, how, how do that so well? He looks at me and he says, “Fingers have eyes.”

AB: “Fingers have eyes. What would say that means?”

JB: “Oh, I don’t know. Something like, just because you can’t see doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Fingers are pretty sensitive body parts, so if you know your anatomy well enough, you should know where you are and what you’re doing without being able to see it .”

AB: “And this is a saying you’ve repeated before?”

JB: “Oh, yes, many times. Residents are always very intimidated by these types of procedures, which is understandable of course. I always repeat this to my senior residents when they start struggling with abdomen dissections and other tricky ones.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Why have you kept and repeated this saying you heard from your mentor?”

JB: “Well, this guy was a really great surgeon. No one I trusted more than him for advice at that time. It’s a simple, elegant way of encouraging residents to trust themselves. But also be careful.”

Personal interpretation:

This proverb has primarily instructional purposes, applying to a difficult surgical technique. The proverb seems to spread at least in part because it reflects the informant’s respect for the man he heard it from.