Thursday, October 06, 2005

Scalpel please, nurse.

Its funny how things work inside an operating theatre.. people running around, getting on with their workday while patients are wheeled in and out of that big green room with all the fancy gadgets and gizmos. Nurses chatting away and socializing while they get ready for the next patient, doctors going off to get a cup of coffee before coming back to scrub in and get to work. Theatre lists that resemble indices of books in busy hospitals usually mean a less friendly work environment (example: SMC), while shorter lists lead to a more laid back, relaxed atmosphere in which everyone knows that they might just be able to sneak in lunch at around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

Where does the medical student fit into all of this? I'm usually that inanimate (as far as everyone else is concerned) object in the far corner next to the medical supply cabinet. I must admit, it does get quite boring in there, and I tend to avoid going into theatre unless the consultant spots me wandering the wards and drags me with him. See, the novelty wore off around two years ago, and if you're not learning anything then its a pain in the ass to stand around for two hours staring at the back of the doctor's head while he points out things you have no idea about.

The other day things changed. Being in final year means you are expected to know more and actually help out when needed. The bitch-work involved in assisting in minor surgeries (things such as retracting the skin and clearing the way for the doctor to do his thing) is something that not even junior doctors enjoy doing unless they're hoping to become surgeons one day. So I'm standing around in my scrubs, trying to stay awake when the surgeon points at me and goes "You. Scrub in."..

This is where I almost lost all tone in my anal sphincter muscles. I'm not the proactive type that tries to scrub in and assist whenever I can. I know a lot of people in my class who have scrubbed in and assisted as far back as 3rd year, but I'm just not the volunteering type.

So I try to recall our little scrubbing tutorial and get to cleaning my hands and arms.. everyone's helpful.. the murse (male nurse) helps by unpacking the sterile kit and guiding me through the whole robing process.. and then just as I'm ready to go I scratch my nose with my germ-free glove and have to redo the whole thing again. It was one of those moments where your inner Homer is so close to manifesting itself with a resounding D'Oh! that would shake the hospital walls to their core. I managed to contain my anxiety and annoyance and made it safely to the operating table.

The next 45 minutes are spent retracting and pulling while the doctor removed a large lipoma out of our patient's back. It was benign and encapsulated, so the process was relatively simple. I got to do the honors by separating the final attachments with the cautery device and then I helped stitch and staple the wound and ended up doing the last bit by myself. Job done.

When asked later on by members of my family how it felt to cut open a real human being and stick my fingers inside the wound.. it made me think. It felt more like work, something to be done.. it never crossed my mind that this was an actual person.

All in all a good experience. I enjoyed it very much and I'd be happy to assist on any surgery from now on. It helped that the doctor guided me through the whole thing and was super nice. I also realized that even though I might enjoy the work and seem to be adequately skilled when it comes to tasks requiring manual dexterity (thanks to a life spent videogaming), I still wouldn't want to be a surgeon.

Its definitely a boys club, and I think I'd have a blast if I joined. Its cut 'em up and stitch 'em up without the requirement of patient empathy or sympathy. I enjoy the human element of it all and wouldn't want to give it up. Besides, ward rounds at 7am every morning for the rest of my life? On-call at all hours of the day, and a proper battle to get to the positions you aspire to get to? No thanks.. I might love medicine, but I certainly don't love it more than my own life.


At 6:24 PM , Blogger Christian said...

Really great blog! I noticed a mention about arthritis medication for dog . I thought you might be interested to hear that both my parents and several of their friends have had problems with arthritis and we have been very lucky to have come across Bioflow. They are sold at arthritis medication for dog and they have been worth every penny. They don't seem to work for everyone but they have helped reduce the pain in my parents arthritis so that they almost don't notice it any longer. They'd still be taking painkillers if it wasn't for wearing a Bioflow on their wrist

At 8:09 PM , Blogger Mo said...

Tell me something, Christian.. when the hell did I exactly mention "arthritis medication for dog" in my blog?

Blog spamming for advertising is probably the weakest thing I have ever come across on the internet. Take your shit elsewhere.

At 9:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey! hope you had a good time yesterday, and that you weren't too shocked when i told you i read you're blog! My head has been quite sore today and i can't wait to go to bed! Enjoy the rest of your weekend ;o)

At 5:53 AM , Blogger Cerebralwaste said...

I enjoyed your post! Now 2 weeks later how do you feel about the assist?

SIDE NOTE:What hospital are you at?

Take care.

At 1:48 PM , Blogger Mo said...

A week is a long time in life. Two weeks even longer. I find myself forgetting the experience so I come back and read my own posts to remember. Kind of like that guy from that movie, Memento.. except I'm not into tattoos.

I'm done with that rotation now but I was at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown. Odd enough question, but the answer is pretty simple so I won't ask.

At 4:12 PM , Blogger Cerebralwaste said...

I didn't know if you where in Bahrain or not that is why I asked. I come from a Medical familiy though I opted out of that profession myself!

At 9:55 AM , Blogger Mo said...

heehee! I just re-read this post almost five years later!

I'm actually an orthopaedic surgeon in training at the moment. The least empathic, most gung-ho bunch of doctors you'll ever find. AND the earliest starters in the morning, to boot.

I love having this blog just to come back and re-read my (seemingly) pre-pubescent ramblings! "I enjoy the human element.."! what hogwash!


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