The privilege of being “in the room”- my first rotation

Surgery. 

I love it.
Words I honestly never thought would ever escape my lips. But they have. This rotation has sunk its hooks in me (or staples? sutures?) and won’t let me go!
My surgeon is incredible. He is definitely not the stereotypical surgeon who treats everyone like dirt and thinks he is above everyone around him. Instead, the nurses all greet him and ask about his family and his vacation he recently had. He gets stopped in the hallway by other docs, previous patients, and other medical staff. Literally everyone has a positive attitude toward him. Exactly the kind of effect I hope to have on those surrounding me in the future. And he has a heart for teaching. He is patient and kind when I don’t know the answers to his questions. He encourages me to challenge my knowledge base and is constantly pushing me to know more, do more, and see more than I already am.
And the best part? He lets me participate. When we “graduated” second year of medical school, we had a special ceremony where we received some advice from fourth year students about how to approach 3rd year rotations. The words of one student stuck with me.
She said “never, ever lose sight of what a tremendous privilege it is to “be in the room”…[Your patients] will invite you into some of their most vulnerable experiences, and you will grow tremendously as a result. What a gift! Don’t forget it.”
It was these words that echoed in my head and in my heart as we completed our third surgery of the day Friday. It was 5pm. We had worked straight through lunch. I hadn’t eaten since 7am and had barely noticed (if you know me at all, you know I get cranky when I’m hungry). Here were patients who had just met me, completely vulnerable under anesthesia, trusting us to “do no harm.” The feeling that filled me when we closed up the last patient was something I can’t really describe in words. It truly is SUCH an incredible privilege to be in the room- I would’ve been happy just observing, but my surgeon allowed me to actually help with staples, cameras, mesh insertions, intubations, catheterization, and tons of other small things. I couldn’t wait to return to the hospital Saturday and Sunday morning to do the post-op progress notes on our patients. I didn’t care it was the weekend. These were real people with real problems that I got to really help!
When I returned home Friday evening and attempted (miserably, I might add) to explain to my husband everything I had seen, felt, smelled, heard, and experienced in the operating room, I was nearly in tears from the intense passion of it all. It was incredible to be trusted so completely and to be able to actually heal a person of their ailment. We were able to provide these people life-changing procedures that reduced their pain, altered their day-to-day, and significantly improved their quality of life and probably their longevity. Going home and simply having dinner like it was any other night seemed anti-climactic. I was frustrated. I wanted to scream from the rooftops how amazing my day had been! Didn’t anyone else understand what I had just experienced?
It was then I realized what it feels like to not only discover your passion, but to live it out. I don’t know if I will go into surgery. I’m only one week into a four-week rotation, and I have a whole nine more to go, which I expect will equally astound me. I really thought I would hate surgery and I don’t. I really thought I knew what I wanted to do with my medical career, and now I’m seeing that door slowly creak back open. And I know not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. I know I will be annoyed at Saturday morning progress notes and late nights. But for now, the only thing I’m certain of is that there is an incredibly amazing adventure ahead of me. And that adventure includes medicine. Never before has a passion of mine been revealed in ways I cannot adequately express.
In the words of my favorite author Wally Lamb, “I know this much is true.”
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