Thursday, 11 April 2013

Surgery loses its glamour

Week 2 was entitled 'Fever in the Post Op Patient'.  It started with a placement watching open heart surgery with an important Professor and Consultant.  Whilst I should have been amazed, as it was exactly the same operation as I had seen in the first pathway I found it a little difficult to muster the same enthusiasm.  I was quite surprised at this, as, don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but it wasn't new and exciting.  The placement is there because sometimes in the Major Elective Surgery week, the timetable works out that the students don't actually get to see any surgery, so the Consultant has tacked this by providing a session in this week.

I think it was also not quite so interesting, because over the course of my three weeks in Day Surgery, I had gotten used to playing a more active role in the theatres, and we weren't allowed to do that in this case.  It felt strange, as I even though I had the ability and experience to help, I hadn't proven myself to this theatre team and so was allocated just an observatory role.  The theatre team were lovely, getting me a stool to stand on and peer over the anaesthetic drapes into the chest cavity as I am a little on the short side and I was able to answer all the questions the surgeons posed me, even daring to have some opinions on things when that seemed appropriate.  But because we are only in places for a short amount of time we cannot be tested and proved worthy, so we cannot participate.

I had been thinking that I quite fancied the idea of surgery as a career, but I wonder if I would eventually get bored of performing the same surgeries over and over, as I had with just watching them.  Or, whether because I was taking an active role, surgery wouldn't lose it's magic.  I like the idea of the responsibility of being in charge to decide how to perform the surgery, the artistry involved with making incisions and dissecting through tissues and being able to fix things with my hands and be the one to make things better.

After a fantastic teaching session examining a patient with the Consultant, we were let loose on the wards to find our feedback patient for the week.  This was rather strange, as the objective was to find patients with complications following surgery, ideally, patients with infections.  It felt almost treacherous in a way, to be patrolling nurses' stations asking if there were any patients where things had gone wrong.  I know that things do go wrong and surgeons aren't gods, but it felt odd to assume that complications were so common place that we could go onto any ward and find a case straight away.  We aren't taught about complications, and our lecturers are all surgeons and doctors and revered, so the notion that they could have ever made a mistake or had a complication is unthinkable.  The notion is slammed in the media, it is drummed into us, complications are bad and should never happen, if one arises then mistakes have been made.  By the time I am an F1 (exam gods be willing) cardiac arrests will be 'never events' in a hospital, as in the signs should be monitored and actions taken before it can happen, with consequences should cardiac arrests take place in a hospital, which is a bizarre idea.  Happily however, it was quite difficult to find patients with post-op complications, and impossible to find ones with a fever.

1 comment:

Burnt Orange Scrubs said...

Great entry!

I had been told by a surgeon I worked with on my core surgery rotation that it can get boring performing the same procedures over and over. So you really have to like what the procedure is!

I am no longer considering general surgery as we call it here in the US, since I have no passion for hernias or stapling colon all day.

A lot of the advice from house officers I got was to make sure we loved the everyday, "bread and butter" cases/problems in a certain field before making a career out of it.