Today is the beginning of my penultimate semester of medical school. It also happens to be the beginning of the second half of my surgery core. Up until this point, I’ve generally found something to enjoy about every rotation in which I’ve had the opportunity to participate. This time, it hasn’t been easy.
Surgery core at Wyckoff is divided into 6 two-week modules: Surgery Clinics, Day Call, Wound Care, OR, Ambulatory Surgery and Night Call. Clinic and Wound Care have been the least intense modules, generally allowing one plenty of time to study/de-stress in the evenings. As I mentioned before, day call is comprised of 14 days straight of twelve hour shifts (usually preceded by a week of clinic with no break in between). Night call is reportedly similar to day call but students are allowed to take one day off per week and are only required to attend morning lecture and grand rounds, not afternoon lectures, so as to rest up for the night shift and not go insane. One may have the opportunity to scrub in on an emergency operation during day call and/or night call but for the most part, the OR action primarily occurs during the OR and Am Surg weeks. Over the course of those four weeks, students are required to scrub in on at least 10 and observe at least 20 surgeries.
Part of the reason it’s been difficult to find things to enjoy over the past 6 weeks probably has to do with the general atmosphere of surgery, which while occasionally congenial (especially among the residents/interns), can be downright hostile. Things tend to be tense when you’re constantly in fear that you’ll be pimped to death or screamed at by an attending.* The expectation seems to be that we must know everything except how to actually perform surgeries. Everything else pertaining to bodies and/or diseases is fair game. Case in point: yesterday, two students in my group were drilled on Fournier gangrene while scrubbed in on a totally unrelated procedure. None of us had ever heard of Fournier gangrene until yesterday. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a way to gauge one’s performance. We haven’t received feedback or grades on any of the assignments or quizzes we’ve had thus far and I’ve heard that hardly anyone makes it out with an A, which is pretty disheartening.
Nonetheless, there are a few cool things about surgery – I got to assist on a few chest tube insertions and staple the incision from an open appendectomy. Today, I’m going to observe a brain biopsy and scrub in on a BKA. I hope these little things will be able to sustain me for the next 5.5 weeks…
*Witnessing these incidents is also quite traumatic