- How did I feel when I got home?
Utterly exhausted. More sleep deprived than I’ve ever been. The happiest I’ve ever been. Undeniably, completely fulfilled. From Day 1, feeling like surgery has been my purpose all along. My head would be reeling from the insane things I witnessed that day – the trauma patients with ruptured vessels and fractured bones, the massive surgeries with huge slabs of muscle being cut and sewed elsewhere, the surgeons I witnessed trying to grapple with it all.
- Did I feel excited to look up the illnesses and diseases in the patients I was caring for, or to study for the shelf exam? Was there diversity in the conditions being treated?
Abso-fucking-lutely. Surgery is everything – cutting diseases on the skin, under the skin, under the bones, everything. Once you step out of the OR, it’s back to medicine – whatever you want medicine to be – pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care, cardiology, pulmonology, anything. I love that surgery is all-encompassing. I love that there is an artistic finesse to it – a hundred different ways to perform the same operation. Finding the perfect needle angle to enter the skin, how to more efficiently pass instruments to eliminate unnecessary steps, perfecting the art of fascial planes – I love it all. Also notably obsessed with stories of what surgery and residency used to be like in the “days of the giants” and digging up original documentation of suturing technique.
- What were the main feelings I encountered while working with the patients? The medical team?
Honestly, I missed my time with patients. I savored the few minutes in the quiet, dark mornings before rounds. But when I did interact with patients, I felt like my impact was greater than ever before. We were actually helping to solve their problems – we were taking huge strides and fixing things. The surgical team could be cold and intimidating, but overall I was stricken by how extremely competent they are. I was working with the badasses, the ones with grit who stepped into a 5-year grueling residency only to say “bring it on” because they knew it would make them the best. These are my people.
- How much direct patient contact was there?
Not enough, at least at this stage in my training. Surgery swallowed my life, and I lived at the hospital. But I have to admit, I missed my free time spent sitting in patient rooms, hearing about their stories. In surgery, time is of the essence, and I usually spent every minute running my ass off or standing like a statue in the OR.
- What were the humdrum aspects in the patient population or workflow that would have to be tolerated for the rest of your life?
Humdrum? There is not a single thing about surgery that is ‘humdrum’! It is exhilarating. It is fast-paced. It is concise. People and thoughts move at 200 miles per hour, and I loved that. Okay wait, I guess soft tissue infections. Those are humdrum.
- Does this specialty address one of the leading causes of death in the world?
I guess surgery can help things like heart disease with a bypass, or lung cancer with resection. But ultimately I don’t think those are the true solutions to the problems at hand. I’m still trying to grapple with that.
- How easily can motivational impact be integrated into a career in this specialty?
There is always a role for motivational impact in post-surgical patients under your care. I think it’s extent depends on the surgical subspecialty. Still trying to grapple with this aspect as well.
- Does this specialty focus on preventing problems or fixing problems?
Fixing. Instead of standing around, talking about it, passing it off to someone else,
surgery fixes it.