My surgery rotation is done … for now.

My rotation through surgery ended for the semester and I am glad that it is done. I did not enjoy it – I worked hard for little gain. The surgeons I worked with all had first assists, senior doctors, or residents to help with the procedure at hand. This meant that I was relegated to the farmer john pose (where ones hands are held at chest level on their imaginary suspenders). On top of this school policy, I found out later, limits third year students from getting too actively involved. I suppose this comes much to the relief of the patient but from my point of view this made for a very tedious 3 weeks. Standing and watching somebody do surgery all day long is probably one of the most boring things you can do. Couple this with 1:4 call and the biggest challenge becomes trying to catch a nap with no one noticing. I found the experience really frustrating to say the least.

It’s frustrating because I feel at this level of training where a large number of medical students are still undecided there should be some encouragement or enticement for the particular specialty. There are ways to get junior students involved (in my humble opinion) that would not endanger the patient in any way, or even slow down the surgery in any aspect. What I found instead was a speciality that almost discouraged junior students from wanting to join. If someone is interested in surgery at this level it would have to be part of higher calling, in order to give you the strength to put up with all the crap. The sad part is that I don’t really see much of a change in the attitudes post graduation.

From the residents I saw working in surgery, they were working damn hard for a few scraps of OR time. The first two years of the surgery residency program, at least at this school, doesn’t seem to offer much other than scut work. By the third year the residents seem to gain some good hands on experience, and their level of responsibility increases from there. Once the 5 years of residency is done there is the need for a fellowship which adds another 1 or 2 years. This is a long time in a system that is geared more to break you down than build you up. I couldn’t do it. I have neither the intestinal fortitude nor the patience.

In the end I suppose I did get something out of this rotation, by this I mean I can definitely cross surgery of the list of things I want to do with my life. I’m not quite done with surgery yet, as I have another rotation after Christmas, something to look forward to I guess…Meantime, Monday brings a new rotation in Obs/Gyne which promises to be good.


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