Med School: The First Month of Surgery

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

My first month of surgery was pretty easy, nothing compared to what would lay ahead. At Tulane we have to do one month of surgical electives that are two weeks each followed by a month in general surgery. We are offered about 10 different electives to choose from. I did my electives the first month and picked ENT and hand surgery. I wanted to do ENT because I know some people going into it so I partially wanted to see what all the hype was about, and just maybe I would really like it.


After a couple of days on ENT I think I understood two things. I understood why people liked it, the field is a nice blend of clinic, surgery, and a pretty extensive use of cutting edge technology. But, you kind of have to be all about the anatomy of the ears nose and throat. I figured out quickly on my first day of clinic that it might not be for me when I saw the doctor disimpact a booger about the size of my pinky finger from some guy’s nose. The second thing I learned on ENT that I would continue to learn throughout the next two months is that I really don’t like surgery. Which on one hand is refreshing to know, and on another hand is disappointing because I was kind of hoping I would be into it. But I’m just not. I figured this out when I was in what I thought was an incredibly boring neck dissection with another med student that wanted to go into surgery. After the surgery I asked him “hey, did you enjoy that?” to which he replied, “Oh yeah! That was Awesome”. Thus I created one of my new favorite sayings “At least someone wants to do it”. But, ENT was light hours, there was no call or weekends, and therefore I had no complaints.


Hand surgery was way easier than ENT, and to my surprise far more interesting. The guy I worked with had been a hand doc for something like 40 + years and the ship he ran was air tight. When a patient came in for an appointment there was an orchestra that took place between the receptionist, the nurses, and the doctor that was performed by a system of color coded lights and instant messaging on different computer screens. All of this had been clearly perfected for many years for the soul purpose to allow the doctor to see as many patients as possible in the most time efficient streamlined way. Now I had been in many clinics up to this point, and I had heard other doctors speculate about ways to make there office more efficient, but this was the first time someone actually got it right. I told myself that if I ever started my own practice in whatever I would come steal this guys system. But hand surgery itself is pretty sweet. You solve fairly simple problems that cause people a great deal of misery, and you can fix them quickly. Most procedure I saw took less then a couple of minutes. I remember one operation I saw when the doctor fixed a patients carpal tunnel that was so fast it was over before my eyes had adjusted to the surgical lights that were focused on the field. One thing I took away from hand surgery that I would later learn on trauma is that I like the idea of doing quick operations. Standing in the OR for 8 hours without drinking, eating, peeing is torture.

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