Saturday, June 8, 2013

Medical School Life: Surgery Rotation

Saturday, June 8, 2013
Somehow, it has been over 2 months since my last post! I promise, I haven't forgotten about crafting or blogging, I've just been crazy busy with school. I started my surgery rotation in April (last rotation of 3rd year!) To be perfectly honest, I thought I would be miserable for two months. We all hear horror stories of med students getting yelled at by OR nurses, docs, and scrub techs, and "pimped" by attending physicians and residents. (In the operating room, one of our "responsibilities" is to cut the sutures for the doc who is sewing up a wound. There is a joke that when medical students ask how long to cut the suture material, the doc responds with, "there are only two lengths medical students cut sutures: too long or too short. It's never right...") We're also told that we can pretty much forget about sleeping and eating because there simply isn't time for those things. Personally, I was dreading all the blood, bodily fluids, smells, etc.

Needless to say, I was planning on these two months being the worst two months of my life. It turns out, as is often the case, that I was dead wrong. This surgery rotation has been one of the best experiences I've ever had! Sure, the physicians expect you to know your stuff, come prepared, and be eager to learn, but that's not an unreasonable expectation. Yes, I've been asked hundreds of questions about anatomy, disease processes, surgical management, and even the names of artists and bands on the OR radio, but I wouldn't describe it as "pimping." It is clear that the doctors actually care about my learning, and I appreciate the challenge. Plus, when I get their questions wrong and am corrected, I am much more likely to remember it in the future, when I'm actually in charge of making decisions that impact patients' lives.

The OR environment is intimidating, but I've found that if I am polite, explain that I am a medical student who is still learning how the whole OR system works, the scrub techs and nurses are amazingly pleasant. They give advice, encouragement, and correction when needed. Again, all in the spirit of helping me become the best physician possible.

There is some truth to the lack of sleep and normal eating schedule, but my senior resident told me on day one of the rotation that the number one rule of surgery is "sleep when you can." Number two is "eat when you can." This has proved to be great advice!

I've actually loved surgery so much that I've had to question my decision to go into pediatrics several times. More than in any other rotation, multiple attending physicians have encouraged me to do surgery. Apparently I have pretty good dexterity. (Let's just say being a piano player, sewer, crafter, etc-er has definitely been paying off!) As strange as it sounds, I've found surgery to be kind of like an intricate craft. It involves an understanding of the tools and materials, making a plan, being creative, developing a sophisticated technique, and having patience, etc. Obviously people's lives are at stake and I'm not trying to make light of that, just to be clear, but I think I have enjoyed it partially because of the crafter in me. Even with this new found love for surgery, I am still going to pursue pediatrics, but I think I am more likely to consider NICU, PICU, peds cardiology, or peds gastroenterology because of the procedural aspects of those sub-specialties. We'll see what happens!

So, before I get back to studying for the three exams I have next week, I just wanted to let you all know why I've been MIA here in blog land. From what I have learned in these two months, my encouragement to all of you is this:

  • Keep your mind open and pay attention
  • Always be willing to learn and try new things
  • Don't take the opinions and experiences of others as fact
  • Be polite 
  • Consider the intentions of the people giving you advice or constructive criticism, and receive it with gratitude! 

I'll be back to the crafting soon!

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