15 Things About Surgery

15 quick thoughts from my Surgery rotation

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5 Good Things

  1. You can Make a Difference – You (surgery) are the intervention. A chance to cut is a chance to cure. You can heal with cold steel. Operations can make a big difference in patient’s lives immediately.
  2. No Need to Dress for Work – no ties, no ironed dress clothes, no need to make an impression. Scrubs, Scrubs, Scrubs! Makes deciding what to wear for work at 5am in the morning easy.
  3. Driving to work in the morning – Smooth cruising on the highway slightly above speed limit, no traffic in front or behind and the reassurance that the traffic police probably haven’t started their day.
  4. Cool Operations – It still amazes me what we are able to do with the human body -from removing organs, to repairing them to transplanting a new ones in! Loads of anatomical knowledge and technical precision to learn in each case.
  5. Ending the days early – You start work early and you end work early. Most days, work ends around 3-4pm, giving you some free time to run some errands.

5 Bad Things

  1. Waking up early – starting rounds at 6am means waking up really really early everyday. Waking up early also means no staying up late!
  2. Neck strain – My neck aches a bit every time I extend it. Try to maintain good ergonomics in the OR.
  3. Fighting for OR time – Surgeons do it, residents do it, and even medical students occasionally have to advocate for getting to scrub in on cases.
  4. Hierarchy – There’s politics in all specialties but none more evident then in surgery. As a medical student, you’re at the bottom of the totem pole.
  5. Fatigue – Long hours (perhaps I’m not a morning person) combined with physical labor in the OR (hours of retracting) can tire you out. Looking after yourself is as important as your readings. Having a student fall asleep in the OR is not good for anyone.

5 Survival Tips

  1. Always wear eye protection – always look after your own safety,  shoe covers are a good idea.
  2. Check your pockets when you change – A many wedding rings, jewelry, cash, important notes have been lost in the dirty linen pile because people didn’t check their pockets when they were changing out of their scrubs.
  3. Follow the Rules of Surgery – staying healthy, well-fed and well-rested is half the challenge.
  4. Read Surgical RecallI know it seems like I’m promoting this book quite heavily, but for anyone who is new to surgery, I can’t think of a better primer. Read around your cases and just before entering the OR for a quick refresher. Full of surgical pearls.
  5. Be good at the little things (Attention to detail)- Write good consult notes, be thorough with your history, cut sutures and retract properly, know how to do some closing sutures. If you’re good at the small stuff, people will trust you with doing more stuff.

Anyone else have some quick thoughts on Surgery? – the good, the bad, survival tips?

2 Responses to 15 Things About Surgery

  1. Spencer says:

    Just wondering, what exactly do you mean by fighting for time in the operating room?

  2. Josh says:

    There are usually more learners around than there ORs going, and getting to be third assist isn’t really all that exciting. I don’t find as a student that I ever have to fight to get to scrub in, but that’s not the same as meaning that I get to do much.

    Having said that, I was first or second assist a lot on both neurosurg and plastics, and a service like gen surg is usually good at making sure you get assisting experience (retracting, suction, suture wire cutting, closing, and other procedures like foleys and simple I&Ds).

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