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The Moment I Realized Surgery Isn't For Me...

Posted Oct 19 2011 7:59pm
...was in the middle of an intense sigmoidectomy. It was 1.5 hours into a three hour surgery, but that wasn't the reason. My arms were aching from holding the laparoscopic camera in place for the 1.5 hours and my back was sore from positioning my self just the right way so that the surgeon next to me had room to work while the other surgeon could see the monitor behind me. But this medical version of Twister was not the reason I decided surgery isn't in my future.

Before I continue, let me preface with this: I find Surgery fascinating, and if/when I get the chance to scrub in or just observe a case, I'm there. The things that can be done to manipulate the anatomy to heal a patient is spectacular, and though I'm halfway through my Surgery rotation I'm just as thrilled to be there as I was on day one, actually more.

And this surgery had it's fair share of exciting moments. It started off laparoscopically but ended up with the surgeon's hand inside the belly. The blood pressure dropped to distressing levels The anatomy was confusing as hell because the bowels had stuck to places where they weren't supposed to be. And with the blink of an eye the surgeon pulled out what could only be described as a bloody komodo dragon. A resected sigmoid colon full of hardened stool. (Friends, don't be misled by the glamorous lives of tv medical doctors. It's not real.) It was amazing, and knowing that the patient would be on the road to recovery was even better.

But it was somewhere in the middle, around the time when the surgeon was separating the intestines, that I had this urge to walk out of the room, talk to a patient, and write a SOAP note. Composing a note seemed more normal to me at that moment than navigating a scope inside of a human body. I suddenly felt claustrophobic by the rules of the OR, the same rules I thought made Surgery so sacred.

I miss the bedside conversation. I miss presenting during rounds and advocating for the patient. I miss the mystery of the illness during an admit and figuring it out with the clues from the H&P. And yes, you do write notes and talk to patients while on Surgery. But it's not the same.

I think I'm going to cross off Surgery on my list of career choices, though I've known that for a while now. A surgeon I am not, but that's ok because my clerkship experience has shown me what I'm strong in and where I'm weak. Golly, it feels good knowing that I can kick ass in certain areas of medicine; a little confidence never hurt.

Rotations are like speed dating, but at a much slower pace. You try out a field for a month or so, see if there's chemistry, and then move on to the next clerkship. By the end of the year you've not only learned about potential career options and a whole lot of medicine, you also end up learning about what you want and what you can see yourself doing. That's when you commit to something and begin your longterm relationship. Because at some point, this journey to becoming a doctor ends and you'll find yourself on day one of internship as the one writing orders and running codes.

Surgery, it's not you, it's me. But hey, can we still be friends?
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