Surgery: An Unhelpfully Honest Guide

What is surgery, exactly?

You’re knocked out, cut up, fixed, and sewn back together.

Are surgeons well-trained?

A surgeon goes through approximately at least 13 years of training after high school, yes.

So despite how terrifying surgery sounds, I’m actually in good hands, right?

Yes. The surgeon will be standing right there during the whole thing – or, at least, during the tough parts.

Wait, there’s such a thing as a not tough part?

Sure.  A resident will make the incision, and you’ve got a 50/50 shot at being sewn together by a med student.

… I don’t want to be sewn together by a med student.

And I don’t want to be standing for 10 hours under hot lights while retracting your major organs and internally freaking the hell out about the possibility that you might be coming out of anesthesia early, but we can’t have everything we want, now can we?

That’s horribly disrespectful.  What about my wishes?

Well, you probably should’ve requested to not have a medical student present.

I didn’t know that was an option.

Yeah, most people don’t.  Which is frankly shocking, considering how many people request that the medical students not enter their rooms during morning rounds.  You’d think those same people would also not want us stapling their abdomens back together.

That’s because I didn’t know you’d be stapling my abdomen back together!

Well, now you do.  But you shouldn’t worry about it – it’s pretty idiot-proof.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and that’s a super safe place to start.  Even I don’t worry about stapling.

Oh, sweet lord.  I’m just going to request that the surgeon does my surgery herself.

Really?  That should be interesting.  I might pop in just to watch and see how that plan plays out.

What do you mean?

Your surgeon works at an academic hospital where she’s the highest person on the totem pole.  She hasn’t closed a case in 50 years.  Every resident available will show up just to see if she remembers how to do a Gambee stitch.  Hell, if it wasn’t for sterility, they’d bring popcorn.

I was happier before I started asking you questions.

Yeah, that’s why we’d never have this conversation in real life.

I think I’d prefer to only talk to my doctor after the surgery.

Good luck finding her.

What do you mean?  I see her every day!  Twice!

That’s the resident.

… Her nametag says “doctor”.

A resident is a doctor, yes – just not the attending doctor.  But she’s probably the one who did most of your surgery, so it’s pretty much the same thing.

Look, I just want to know how I get the REAL doctor to come visit me more often.

Oh, okay!  It’s a simple trick – instead of flowers, ask your family to team up and buy you a nice coffee machine for your hospital room.

Clever.  And then the doctor will visit more often?

Then everyone will visit more often.

You’re no help at all, you know that?

I believe that’s a popular conclusion, yes.

9 thoughts on “Surgery: An Unhelpfully Honest Guide

  1. FWIW on my surgery rotation, I was NEVER allowed to sew up fascia, and only occasionally allowed to staple. After a while I just gave up trying to get to do stuff and avoided the OR as much as I could. I got sick of having to “prove myself” to every new surgeon I met who wanted me to spend 4 hours standing there doing nothing, or if I was really really lucky, cut suture (always too long or too short) before I’d get to do even one stitch.

  2. Too funny, and too true. Brings back horrible memories of my eight weeks on surgery as a med student. (Never again.)

    Do you really have a lot of patients who refuse to have medical students in the room on rounds? I’ve never seen that happen…maybe it’s a US thing?

  3. this is especially true of neurosurgery… I was allowed to suture dura, drill burr holes, and expected to do all the closings… the patients had no idea. there were no problems, thank god.

  4. Stumbled upon your blog (sorry if it feels like an intrusion!). I have to say that as Scrub Tech, I’M permitted to staple skin. Patients would shit bricks if they knew that someone who isn’t even remotely close to being a Dr. is assiting with closing their skin (we don’t approximate, just fire the stapler).

    • Not intrusive at all! It’s a very public blog. 🙂

      Haha, firing the staple is so much fun. I don’t know if it ever gets old for you, but I have a feeling it would never get old to the perpetual 12-year-old side of me.

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