Rotation: General Surgery with Vascular/Transplant/Trauma

I chose this picture because this is exactly what surgery is…. some people look like happy rockstars and others just look tired and miserable and grumpy. The work hours alone will do this to anyone!


Name/Location of Clinical Rotation

General Surgery at our Heart/Lung center (4 weeks)

What did I like most about this specialty?

I felt like I knew a lot. Our rotation leaders made sure we had high-quality lectures so I didn’t feel like an idiot in the OR. Feeling like you know things and being able to answer at the drop of a hat is a wonderful feeling.

What did I like least about this specialty?

Umm surgery. There were many things that I saw (and did) on surgery that I am sure have given me some sort of PTSD. Parts of it are truly horrific, even though you are trying to help someone. One day, we had two AKAs… above-knee amputations…. back to back. On the first one, I just observed and was horrified. I honestly tried to make myself scarce for the second one because it affected me so much that I really didn’t want to see or participate in the second. I’m not that lucky, though. So on the second one, my attending let me be the one to use the bone saw to cut through the femur and relieve our patient of the leg, then sew up the flaps of skin. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I am traumatized.

Did this clinical rotation give me a good sense of what practice in this specialty would be like?

8 weeks of surgery is rough. My wake-up alarm at 4am was the most hated thing I’ve ever had in my life. I seriously don’t know how surgeons do it for entire careers. I’d see all of my patients in the mornings before 6am, because we would round at 6am and be in the OR before 7:30am. Call days… holy goodness. It was the same routine but you’d stay all night, running to the ED whenever there was a case and then if it was urgent enough, going to the OR at 2am. Sleeping on couches for a half hour before getting up to go pre-round to round at 6am to be sent home at 8am. It was awful. There were times I would even stay later to see the sun come up and enjoy some coffee before I headed home because I wasn’t sure I was ok to drive in such a sleep-deprived state. Granted, I realize that the attendings weren’t on this same schedule, but a residency is 5-7+ years +/- fellowship…. no thank you.

Did my interests, values, kills and personality fit with this specialty? If yes, how did they fit? If not, why might they not be compatible?

No. I value getting to know my patients and spending time with them, and this specialty did not allow for the type of practice that I want.

What are the possible practice settings exist for this specialty? Do any of them interest me and do I know enough about them?

One of the attendings that I worked with quite a bit was actually a private practice surgeon, but he exchanged teaching hours for being allowed in the OR in this hospital. So I feel like I saw a good portion of the practice types.

What info do I still need?

None. 8 weeks was more than enough.

Has my perception of this specialty changed? If yes, how?

Nope. Not a bit. Not for me. It’s just not for me.

Did my clinical rotation experience influence the likelihood of choosing this specialty?

Yes–it made me absolutely sure that I do not want to go into a surgical subspecialty. Check that box for me: Medicine over Surgical.

Right now, how interested am I in this specialty?

It is very last on my list.

What information do I still need to evaluate this specialty? Any other comments or reflections?

Things that I saw on this rotation have changed me so much. It wasn’t just the leg amputations, but other stories that I have seen that are now imprinted on my soul and have changed the way I have thought about medicine as a whole. In that respect, it was bittersweet; both good and not so good. I did see lots of cool things like an LVAD being put in… amazing. This specialty is just not for me.


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