Scutmonkey Chronicles

Commentary on healthcare in general, life as a medical student, and issues of concern thereof. Readers warmly encouraged to contribute their "best" and "worst" experiences with the healthcare system (who knows, some budding young doctor might learn something from your pain...?) Submit via comments section, or email me at if you'd like to become a regular contributor. Welcome, and don't forget to double-glove!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cut Flesh to Save Flesh

Third week of my surgery rotation. Digging it more than I thought I would (admittedly, expectations were low.) If I were ten years younger, I might even consider this as a specialty. Being in my mid-thirties, though, and still wanting to have some semblance of a family life, I'm probably not going to go that route. Not to mention the fact that my hands are already much shakier than they were in my twenties. Extrapolating out to the end of even the shortest surgery residency, I'd be forty two. Not gonna work.

Looked on this morning as my attending told a 74 year old lady she had breast cancer. I thought he did a really admirable job of telling her this news without either breaking her spirit or sugar coating the prognosis. I suspect that his good reputation and success in practice has as much to do with those kind of skills as it does his abilities in the operating room. Still, the woman began to shake and tear up as the conversation progressed, while her daughter reacted with disbelief and then anger. I guess it's good to see these interactions as an observer before having to be the one breaking the bad news.

As for the hospital I'm currently at, I like the residents and staff a lot, but I think there is an inordinate amount of bullshit thrust on them by the administration, which has an understandably negative impact on morale. As an example, yesterday we had to endure a ninety minute lecture by a visiting professor of ethics on the subject of "Reasons for Conflict Within Residency Programs." As I recall, the top three reasons discussed were lack of sleep, paperwork overload, and miscommunication between administration and residents. All very nice, but wouldn't it have made more sense to alot those ninety minutes to getting work done and sending folks home so they CAN sleep? Joseph Heller, if you could see us now...


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