Surgery – Trauma Blues

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

About the second week of trauma surgery I realized that like every other rotation I have been on its pretty hit or miss depending on when your there. Unfortunately, it had mostly been a miss so far. Basically the way it works is there are 3 trauma teams that rotate nights on call. What call means is that if a trauma comes into the ER the on call team is notified and rushes down to the trauma bay, or as they call it “Room 4”, for the old trauma room in charity. A call shift lasts from 7am-7am. When there are no traumas the daily duty of the call team is to see patients in the ER or on the floor that need to be assessed to determine if they need surgery. This can range from an emergent appendicitis to a butt abscess, most of the time we go ahead and do these surgeries as well. So if there are no traumas the entire call shift can be pretty boring full of mundane general surgeries (I suppose if you love surgery, this would be a great time). But, as I had previously mentioned I find no joy in standing in an OR for 6 or 7 hours without sitting, peeing, pooping, eating or drinking. Just not my version of a good time, but to each there own.


My first night was pretty uneventful there were no activations, just a bunch of consult surgeries. I wound up heading home at about 11am, which means I worked 30 hours straight. I was able to grab about 2 hours of sleep in the call room so it wasn’t that bad I guess.


The basic day when the team is not on call can vary. We have a bunch of patients on the floor that are awaiting surgery, or are post-op. Either way they are all pretty boring and not much to do with trauma. The way a team accumulates patients is by being on call and doing a bunch of consults. So that first week I worked we were on call a few times and had collected about 24 patients. Between the other two med students I was working with we had to see all those patients every morning and write progress notes on them by 6 am. Now a surgery progress note is pretty simple, usually only two or three lines. But it always seemed our resident wanted us to know every detail about what happened to the patient the previous day, or what plastic surgery thought, or what the social worker was planning on doing.


I was completely inept in my ability to see a patient in 10 minutes and move on. I still can’t decide if this was because of me, or the trials and tribulations that one has to go through every morning in University hospital, probably a bit of both. Regardless I found myself getting to the hospital before 4 am on multiple occasions. My second week was by far the busiest and I logged just over 98 hours for the week. I have a friend who is a surgical intern at Yale and she says she often puts in the 100 hour weeks, but on average she works 80 hours which to her is no sweat and very manageable. Another reason why I could never be a surgeon, doing anything for 100 hours a week is my idea of misery, besides maybe sleeping or playing video games.

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