This new environment was definitely much different than I had anticipated it to be. My surgeons conduct their pre and post op visits in their clinic (and surgeries at outpatient centers, or in nearby hospitals like Cedars-Sinai), and from day one, the pace varied each day and even hour. Even if there was a large influx of patients, the staff maintained a calm yet efficient composure throughout their shift. Moreover, their easygoing and patient personalities were important because they could easily connect with their patients and provide quality care. For the surgeries and operations, the surgeons and nurses still remained lighthearted and organized, even if a few errors occurred in the operating room.
Out of the workplace, I definitely needed some time and planning to adjust with the transition. For instance, the bus schedule isn’t always reliable, and there are a few buses that vary in terms of frequency and speed. Thankfully, I spend a chunk of my weekends with my church and friends, and being with them has helped me settle in more smoothly.
The medical field differs from university and academic life in terms of busyness. In reality, surgeons are constantly managing their busy schedules, often answering calls and working back at home and on the weekends. They might even call other doctors in their cars and likely will work on something whenever there is free time. At least in university, it is not overly difficult to schedule fun activities with friends and walk around. However, one of my surgeons reminded me to not take my time for granted and to truly explore the nearby LA area (as he often talks about places with his patients, not just medicine and procedures).
One of the biggest skills that I am building is productiveness, which is generally transferable to any area of my life. Since the surgeons are often thinking about patients’ cases, they might forget that you’re present and to bring you into the next room. This is one small scenario out of many others. You need to constantly communicate with others and be ready to shift gears. Moreover, it is important to be comfortable with those around you. Even if you think that you might be overstepping boundaries, it is OK to make mistakes by taking risks; aside from using common sense (like not touching equipment), the staff will emphasize certain rules (avoiding blue draped areas in the OR, closing the exam room doors, etc.). You might not know the exact protocol and have numerous unanswered questions, but that should not deter you from chatting with patients or moving closer in the procedure to see the targeted area.
Overall, my shadowing experience, so far, has definitely confirmed my interests and involvement in medicine.
–Trevor Lee, The Surgery Group of Los Angeles