Today marks my fourth week of shadowing Dr. Cataldo in the Colo-Rectal Surgery department. It amazes me that I have already spent over eighty hours in the OR and clinic, and also that I oddly feel at ease with observing surgeries and seeing patients firsthand.
On my first day of shadowing, I recall being awestruck by the environment of the operating room, when I first step foot into the OR. After overcoming the initial shock of seeing a patient being operated on before my eyes with the internal organs clearly in view, I quickly acclimated to my new surroundings and even began to feel at home in the hospital environment. What surprised me the most has been observing all of the moving parts in the hospital—just within a single OR room, there are anesthesiologists, the attending surgeon (Dr. Cataldo), assisting residents, medical students, scrub techs on hand, and OR nurses all working together to ensure maximum efficiency and the best care for the patient undergoing operation. I have heard horror stories in the past of patients being treated without respect when under anesthesia, but to my pleasant surprise, I have only seen the patient being treated with utmost respect even while unconscious on the operating table.
Being in the hospital has definitely been a vastly different experience from campus life. Although one may argue that there are many similarities between the two—including high levels of stress and the constant need to learn and grasp new information, the medical field as a whole is a very different institution. For one, as I mentioned earlier—it consists of countless healthcare providers who work in unison and highly value communication in order to achieve the best care for their patients. In the hospital, the patient is always first priority—and doctors and nurses are always making absolute sure that the best care is being provided. Of course, at a renowned institution like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one would expect no less.
In the short span of time that I have shadowed Dr. Cataldo, I have been surprised by how much information I have learned by simply observing and asking an occasional question. I have learned so much about the difference between a hemorrhoid and a fistula—common misconceptions about hemorrhoids (such as that they are a completely natural part of human anatomy), as well as what laparoscopic surgery is and the benefits of laparoscopy over open surgery. Shadowing so far has taught me to be more inquisitive and observant as a student in order to get as much out of the experience as possible. I believe that more than the technical information I have learned; I have begun to truly understand what it means to be a doctor and healthcare practitioner. As Dr. Cataldo always says, a good doctor/surgeon always puts the patient before all else. This means spending extra time on the phone with patients to follow-up with them and answer any of their questions. It also means taking the time to explain all of the surgical and nonsurgical options for treatment to patients and their families in the clinic. Even though I am only four weeks into the experience, already I have learned so much about this medical field that I have chosen to make a career in, must say that shadowing has only bolstered my resolve to become a doctor myself one day.
Ariel Lee — Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center