The world of the operating room is clouded in mystery to the general population; leaving a lot of room for imagination, dramatisation, and fear. Surgery is scary for patients. To them they see people being wheeled into the OR on Grey's only to have three massive bleeds, four heart attacks, and a stroke. So of COURSE it's scary. In reality, that doesn't happen (often, I mean, it probably has once over the course of surgical history). Surgeons are precise, careful, and surrounded by a team of people who make sure that doesn't happen. The sheer volume of machines monitoring every little thing within your body is astounding. So why are patients so scared?
I think part of the answer lies in vulnerability. You're naked, you're sick, and you're about to be cut open by people wearing funny masks and hats. It is an incredibly vulnerable position. Particularly in our society where people often do not understand what is going on within their bodies. That failing lies both within the education system and the healthcare system. Patient education is a crucial part of the doctor-patient interaction but it often goes untouched. Patients who understand their health and who feel like they are part of the decision-making process are more likely to be compliant with their medical plan. It also takes some of the mystery out of surgery, and thus, some of the fear.
I feel like I can speak from both the healthcare side and the patient side. I have both been a patient in surgery and a student in surgery. I remember how scary it was to be wheeled away from my parents and brought back to a freezing operating room full of equipment I didn't recognise or understand. I remember laying on the hospital bed as they told me to move to the operating table thinking I could get up and run (I was 14, what can I say). I remember the anesthesiologist holding a mask over my face and counting me down to sleep. I don't remember ever seeing my surgeon in the room. That one familiar face could have helped quell my fear but I distinctly remember being surrounded by strangers and I was terrified.
After working with different surgeons I have noticed different styles and the ones I personally resonate with the most are hands on. The surgeons who come into the room while the patient is still awake and says hello, asks how they're doing, helps calm any fears-- those are the ones who have the best patient relationships. I know, every surgeon goes and talks to the patient in pre-op but pre-op isn't scary. The OR is scary. I also understand how busy surgery gets, believe me. I know there isn't always time but I think that it is important to make time because, after all, we're all there for the patient's benefit.
One of my biggest take aways from this rotation is it's more important to take the extra minute to hold a patient's hand than it is to be fast (I mean, unless they're bleeding out.. but I'm a student, I can still hold their hand, not about to pretend I'm any use in that situation). Alright. Everyone brace yourselves for a cliche moment - I've started to feel like this is really my calling. Not surgery, ha, NOT surgery. But patient care. It fulfils a part of me I didn't even know existed. I love checking up on patients and talking with them, seeing how they're doing. I actually look forward to early morning rounds. I love giving advice and being able to help. Despite the hellacious journey, medicine is definitely the right fit for me and I am so excited to see where it takes me.