Surgery: A New Experience

I think I was expecting to be in a perpetual state of fear and not knowing anything for my surgery rotation but I am quite enjoying it so far.

The rotation is mostly structured as we are placed in different units every 1-2 weeks, with additional scheduled tutorials and clinics. This is what my 8 weeks in surgery looks like:

  • Week 1 & 2 – Upper GI (General Surgery)
  • Week 3 & 4 – Colorectal (General Surgery)
  • Week 5 – Trauma
  • Week 6 – Acute Surgery
  • Week 7 – Burns Unit
  • Week 8 – Urology

There are other units I will unfortunately not have the opportunity to work in: Breast/Endocrine, Hepato/Pancreatic, Plastics and Vascular.

We also have scheduled sessions in multiple clinics that include: Breast Clinic, Breast Screening Clinic, Burns Outpatient Department, Colonoscopy Clinic, Endoscopy Clinic, and Minor-Ops Clinic.

Despite being more structured than in previous rotations, there are lots of opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills, depending on your willingness and your comfort level. Always take advantage of those opportunities! My partner and I have had the chance to see our own patients in the Gastroenterology Clinic and I finally got to put in my first IV canula – hurray!

And of course, being in surgery, we’ve gone in to the operating theatre (OT) to observe 2 surgeries so far. Both patients were from our surgical team. Patient 1 had a complete closure of an enormous abdominal hernia. He already had a surgery to repair the hernia months ago but suffered major complications with a wound that didn’t heal. Patient 2 had a distal gastrectomy (part of stomach removed) due to early stomach cancer.

Perhaps the most important thing in viewing operations: Know who your patients are, what operation they are having and why. Otherwise, not only do you look stupid if the doctors ask you any questions, but you will have no idea what’s going on and not be able to appreciate what you are observing.

If you have the chance to see patients in the ward or in the pre-admission clinic, take the opportunity to talk to them – get a history, do an examination, review their investigations, and read their file so you get the complete story. After surgery, follow the patient’s progress 🙂

We haven’t scrubbed in yet, which I think was a smart thing to do because it gave us the opportunity to walk around and get to know the staff (ie. nurses, anaesthesiologists, etc), and more importantly, stand back and observe how the team works and how the OT functions. Perhaps next time we will ask to scrub in!

[I wrote such a long post, but unfortunately half of it got deleted when I tried to publish and now I’m too lazy to rewrite it all… this is all for now]

6 thoughts on “Surgery: A New Experience

  1. citizensurgeon says:

    Enjoyed your post, strong work with your general surgery rotation. You picked up on the most important part of being a medical student…your patient, not the specifics of the operation. Learn to know everything about your patients and you’ll be a much better resident when the time comes.

    • Sandra Nguy says:

      Hi Erik,

      Thanks for stopping by to read my post and for your kind comment! One of the things I learned early in med school was to put the patient first – and I’ve since tried to abide by that rule through out my journey 🙂

      Paediatric surgery is a great specialty – I look forward to reading more posts on your blog soon! (Especially the Stories from the Ward)

    • Sandra Nguy says:

      Haha, don’t be. If you want to be a surgeon, I’m sure you’ll make it into med school and will experience it for yourself! It’s not as glamorous as it sounds though 😉

  2. TrishaDM says:

    It is awesome that you get so much variety on surgery. It helps get you through, for sure. I am jealous… In third year, I only got to go 3 weeks of Ortho and then 5 on a Thoracics/Gen Surg team.

    • Sandra Nguy says:

      Hi Trisha! A friend back in Canada has said the same thing – I feel very fortunate! It will be very interesting getting a little taste of so many things – I’m excited to see what different teams and cases will be like 🙂

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