Trauma Surgery: Expectations vs. Reality

When I signed up for 2 weeks of Trauma surgery in my third year, I just knew it was going to be action packed. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and be pushed to work under pressure. I even figured doing it at my institution would be the best place because we’re the Level 1 trauma center in our area. I really imagined it being a highlight of my clinical rotations. ABCs, ex laps, chest tubes, gun shots, all of that! I was ready. So just imagine the look on my face (well, the thoughts in my mind since I’ve learned how to save face) when my classmate and I meet our resident on the first day and he says “you guys don’t go to the OR on this rotation.” All my dreams were crushed.

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We work with the resident who manages the patients on the floor. It’s our job to read up on the patients hospital course and answer the question What’s keeping them in the hospital? So I just get to read about all the crazy stuff that happens as opposed to being let in on all of the action. Basically feels like any other inpatient medicine service. We get to the hospital early to pre-round, then round with the trauma team, then follow up on what we need to do for the patients based on rounds. At this point, we (medical students) are sent home and the resident stays behind to man for floor. We don’t have access to put orders in so it’s really hard to be useful.

So am I learning stuff? Absolutely. Management of the complex injuries in patients with gun shots, stabs, falls, electrocutions, etc with different hospital teams coordinating their care is super educational. Right now, I have 5 patients that I’m following, and each of them are teaching me something different. However, it’s definitely not the experience I was hoping for. I guess it’s still a part of trauma surgery. But when you don’t plan on going into surgery, you really want to see as much surgery as you can. So that was disappointing. I did get to go to the OR once and that was for my patient who needed debridement of his foot wound (exit wound from a 14000 volt electrocution). I got a really good lesson/review about burns from my attending that day. (In case you didn’t know, there’s no such thing as 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree burns anymore–they’re changing the terminology to superficial/deep partial thickness and full thickness burns).

With my shelf exam coming up on Friday, I’m actually really not pressed to be in the OR very much anyway since I use every free moment to study, and each day is basically a half day. If I had this rotation toward the beginning of my 8 week surgery stent, I’d be pretty unenthused about it. I’ve just never heard of a surgery rotation where you don’t…go to surgery! But anyway, please keep me in your prayers for my shelf exam this week! I’ll write another post about my study resources/schedule for my preparation, but for now it’s back to work!


Thank you for reading! Enjoy your week! Subscribe on your way out if you haven’t already!

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