I just finished my surgery rotation. PHEW.

I hated it.

I knew I wasn’t into surgery from day 1, and chose to have it as my first rotation to get it over with. I knew it would be hard and that waking up at 4:30 am every day would suck. I knew that I would encounter some difficult personalities.

But part of me really wanted to like it.

The transition from 2nd year of medical school into third is a giant one. Especially into surgery. You are suddenly seeing actual patients and have actual responsibility. Even scarier, you are walking around the hospital with a short white coat and patients are calling you “doctor.”

I really wasn’t ready for that one.

The end of the surgery rotation means an oral presentation, a written exam, and an oral exam. The oral exam is what I was most anxious about. After wearing wrinkled scrubs everyday for 8 weeks, you come to the hospital in a full blown suit (basically the same thing you wore for your medical school interview, pulled out from the very back of the closet). You enter a room with 2 straight-faced surgeons. “A 42 year old women comes to you after noticing a lump in her breast.” Go.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. Ruptured Triple A. Very high mortality rate. A SURGICAL EMERGENCY.

And I blew it.

Had the case presentation been written in a multiple choice exam, I would have gotten it immediately. But sitting there in front of 2 straight-faced surgeons, my mind was somewhere else. Pancreatitis, small bowel obstruction, volvulus. Get labs, abdominal series, amylase/lipase?

My patient would have died.

I ended up doing OK overall. We had 6 cases total. But I can’t drop that one. I can’t stop thinking about how badly I blew it. Maybe it’s because I’m a typical medical student- perfectionist. Straight A’s. Basically have done everything right since preschool.

But I think its more than that. It’s the hardest part of becoming a doctor. Realizing that you are responsible for lives. Your knowledge, what you can come up with immediately can make a difference of life and death. This is the first time that the realization hit me hard, and I can’t live it down.

Thankfully, I had some time off after surgery to recuperate a bit. Then back for Child Neuro and Psych!

More to come.



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