It is a new year, and I have spent the first three weeks of it with the trauma surgery team at UF Health Shands Hospital here in Gainesville. I am currently on my surgery rotation, which has been quite a departure from my previous rotations so far. I am enjoying it very much, however.
Each morning the team started the day at around 5 a.m., when we would round on all the patients in our service. Not only did we have an early start each day, but we also had a large census of patients to go through — each of them unique and complex. The team I worked with was more than equipped to handle them, however, and took care of them well. I was surprised at how efficiently each member of the team operated, as well as the depth of their medical knowledge and skill. No possible side effect or circumstance regarding a patient was overlooked, and every possible complication was anticipated and ready to be addressed. Under the leadership of the attending surgeons, the team was run like a machine.
Indeed, I have never met a group of individuals who appeared to not need much sleep to function. The residents were still at the hospital every day when I left at night and were there already when I arrived early in the morning. It was the kind of dedication you see only when someone really loves what they do. I was in the operating room with the chief resident one day, talking to him about the long hours that he worked. He picked up a hemostat and said, “Do you hear this?” and then he clamped the instrument shut, allowing it make its characteristic “click-click-click” noise as the locks on the handle engaged. “That sound is the reason I get out of bed in the morning.” I was struck by how fully he was committed to his specialty; it seemed as audible and certain as the clicks that came from his instrument. I hoped I would one day find that same certainty in myself.
I have liked being in the operating room ever since I first stepped in one last year in my obstetrics and gynecology rotation. It is an interesting place, and one of the most machine-like I can think of. Everything is done in a certain way, in certain steps, and everyone has their role. My role was to help wherever I could — setting up the room beforehand, cleaning up and helping transport the patients to their rooms afterward. During the surgery, I would stand next to the resident and retract tissue, cut sutures and try to learn and observe as much as I could. I worked with several different surgeons, each with their own style and preferences, and all of them highly skilled. What struck me most about them was how confident each surgeon was. They were all sure of themselves; there was purpose in every knife stroke, every needle stitch and every maneuver. I wondered if it came naturally to them or if it was acquired. If they did find it, where did it come from? I am still trying to figure that out.
When I am not in the operating room assisting with surgeries, I am with the second-year resident, who runs around the hospital, answering consults from other services and making sure our patients are doing well. He is also in charge of being ready to receive incoming trauma patients in the Emergency Department. He is always busy and I cannot ever recall seeing him eat or stop to use the restroom. In addition to the new patients he sees every day, he knows everything there is to know about our current list of patients, making me think of him as a kind of fast-moving computer. This is true of all the members of the trauma team, and I often found myself trying to keep up with all the quick thinking that goes on during rounds. Just when I thought I had a good idea of what was going on with one patient, he or she would be discharged and a new patient would take his or her place. Being able to keep large amounts of patient data in your head is something that comes only after a lot of practice, I suppose.
So far, my time in the surgery rotation has been challenging, both mentally and physically. I learn so many new things each day that I am surprised I can remember them all. While I do appreciate all the time I have spent in the operating room, my favorite part of surgery so far is seeing the patients recover. It is great to see a patient who was once so ill getting better day by day, and each patient I have met has had an interesting and memorable story to tell. I am very much looking forward to the next several weeks.