Shock Trauma Torture

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good surgical resident when it’s the exact opposite of anything I self identify with.  Working in the Trauma Resuscitation Unit (TRU) at Shock Trauma is a lot of fun. In my opinion working in this trauma bay and caring for patients directly off the street is the reason the Air Force sends us here before deploying. Unfortunately, call is only every third night, although working more than that could easily kill a man, but call is where I learn the most.

So what do I do when not on call? I get to relive all the reasons why I’ll never go back to working on the hospital wards. The average day starts at five or six in the morning. Our massive team, which typically averages around 40-50 patients, is split up amongst 4-5 residents. Before we round on all of them at 7:30, I “preround” on my share, which means I get there around 530 each day. The next six or seven hours of rounding hell are typically a blur of vital signs, lab values, and meticulous descriptions of incision sites which I know and care to know little about.

After rounding, otherwise known as a normal workday for most people, we start actually doing all the work we talked about on rounds. Writing discharge summaries, following up with studies, and consulting every specialty known to modern medicine until checklists within checklists are complete. In the underbelly of the medical world this type of labor falls under the disdained title of “scut work”. Is it necessary? Yes.. Painful? Yes..Valuable to my mission in the Air Force? I’m yet to be convinced. I brought this point of contention up with my fellow, who happens to be a flight surgeon.  His best rebuttal was that someday while deployed I might be faced with a postop patient that needs to be cleared to fly. So the next day on rounds outside of every patient’s room I started asking if they could fly and withstand the physiologic stresses of flight. This strategy provided just enough mental stimulation to stimulate me through rounds, and it proved to be equally as effective in annoying the nurse practitioners that rounded with us. I could almost hear eyes rolling into the backs of heads when I interjected like a two year old “But, would you fly them?”

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