Have been looking forward to this one for a while! As part of our compulsory clinical experiences at George Eliot Hospital, we have to spend a morning in theatre getting used to things. I’m not sure exactly what that means, because in my case I just turned up at 8am very much unexpected, got pointed towards a theatre and was left to get on with things.
It’s worth pointing out that briefly this was one of those horrible moments where you feel very much like a spare part - as medical students we’re not massively useful in any capacity at the best of times, let alone in a new place where you know nobody or lack the faintest idea of what you should be doing.
Thankfully before long a very wonderful nurse appeared who looked after me in that interim, showed me where the scrubs were, what I should put on and where everything was. It’s a really small act of kindness in retrospect but it makes an enormous difference to the student experience and I made sure to thank her for it afterwards when we left.
I got changed and was joined by a classmate before we were whisked into the anaesthetics room of the orthopaedics theatre presided over by a specialist foot surgeon. The anaesthetist was also incredibly welcoming, showing us on ultrasound how he blocked the various nerves supplying the ankle and foot, as well as providing us some more general career advice and recommending taking an F3 year.
We got to observe two surgeries, the first a very short affair removing excess tissue from a toe joint to reduce stiffness, and the second a much more involved case scraping excess cartilage out of an ankle joint. The surgeon was clearly very busy but still made the effort to ask us questions about what we thought was going on - orienting yourself with an arthroscopic camera in joint spaces is harder than it sounds.
Orthopaedics really does seem to be, as my friend Chris puts it, ‘moist carpentry’ - all power tools, bone drills and hammers, with little shards of bone and various fluids flying everywhere. It looks entertaining at the very least, and I can very easily understand how any fan of gross bodily anatomy would be attracted to it. One of my colleagues reported a rather more dynamic experience - the assistant surgeon in his theatre was called away in an emergency, so he had to assist the consultant himself, removing fluid and holding bits of bone and leg in place!
In the afternoon we had bedside teaching on a respiratory ward, with my role being to carry out the exam after my classmate took the history. While I still remembered a fair bit from the OSCEs, I did forget some obvious steps so I clearly need to start practicing again. The doctor we were following also recommended the idea of taking an F3 year, so perhaps that really is something to think about.