Saturday, October 24, 2009

Done Surgerizing

As you could probably tell from the frequency of posts in the last 2 months, surgery was not the most leisurely of clinical rotations. But it wasn't too bad. Maybe it is just our school (or just my experience), but the hype over how much work it is and how much pimping is involved is a bit overblown. Yes, it sucks getting up at 4:30 am everyday, but once your there (and awake) most of it isn't "difficult." I rarely got pimped (in fact there was only one time where I may have felt uncomfortable), I was rarely given any scut work and (this may have been a fluke because of some national conferences) I actually had time to read. Still, I quickly decided (after about 4 days) that it's not what I want to do with my life. What I loved about medicine was the opportunity to get a complete mystery and solve it with clues from your history, exam and labs. In surgery (for the most part) that is already done for you. It's a much more get in there and fix the problem kind of job. Don't get me wrong though... most of the surgeries were really cool. There are a lot of clever approaches to fixing otherwise very disabling problems (like making a bladder out of intestines). And there's nothing like cutting apart someone, hacking at bones, chopping up intestines and seeing the person functioning pretty much as normal a few days later. Here are some quick goods and bads:

1. Most of the procedures are awesome - something not too many people get to be (somewhat) actively involved in.
2. There actually is thinking involved - surgeons have a lot of thinking on their feet to do when something unexpected happens intraoperatively. It's not just for jocks.
3. Results - for the majority of patients, the surgeries actually work! It's amazing to see the overnight transformation in patients.

1. Hours suck - When med students are violating national hour-limit laws, I don't want to know what the residents are doing.
2. Not much to do for the student - unlike medicine where you can follow labs, actively discuss your patient, in surgery the most you get to do is throw a few stitches, hold retractors and get to open your mouth once every half an hour or so. There is a lot of standing around not doing anything, which sucks when you have to get up so early.

1. Ask questions, very few people are enough of an asshole to call your question stupid (you'll figure out who those people are and avoid them).
2. Try to do as much as possible, ask (if you actually think you can handle it) if you could do it. This isn't a rotation to be quiet and timid on. You'll have a pretty boring experience if you don't try to actively get involved in whatever the team is doing.
3. Don't kiss ass. This goes for most rotations, but students interested in surgery tend to be the worst. Everyone ends up hating the person (including, I presume, the attending).
4. Don't fret over studying for pimping. Study what is important for your exam, but don't spend hours reading about details of an operation that you'll never think about again. The reputation of pimping is overrated... it is not what you should be worried about.
5. Always have something to read in your pocket. That way you'll read what you need for the day in your downtime, giving you more time to eat and sleep when you get home.
6. Don't volunteer for scut work just because you think it will give you a better grade. It won't and it'll be a complete waste of your time.
7. Have fun. You may never get to experience being in the OR again, so try to make the most of it. This is especially important to remember towards the end, when you're completely burnt out.

Despite the fact that it wasn't too bad... I gotta say, woohoo!! My two (supposedly) most difficult rotations of medical school are behind me. Now I get a relative vacation with 2 weeks of pathology before starting OB/GYN, something I have no interest in, but at least having a baby on the way will somewhat have me caring.

And remember, Jesus is with you... though he'll definitely get yelled at by the scrub nurses


  1. Those were pretty much my thoughts on surgery clerkship, as well. Congrats on being done!

  2. I think Obstetrics is cool. You may like it more than you think. Especially if you like medicine. Many of the pregnant women get sick. And their normal labs are a bit odd. I think you may like it way more than you are expecting to.

  3. yeah, I just got my probable schedule and it does sound pretty interesting. I think it'll be especially nice since I'm going in it for interest only (i.e., I don't need to really kiss ass and try to impress people).

  4. Sorry for overhyping it for you ;) Congrats on rocking it out!

  5. welcome back, whitecoat tales, haven't heard from you for a while.