No! Not that way! Hold it like this so I can see. Can YOU see?!
The surgeon yells at the first year resident who is assisting him on a laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair. It’s a fairly simple surgery, which can be performed under an hour. But this surgery was taking well over an hour and they weren’t close to being done. The surgeron grabs the scope and pulls it out and shoves it back in rather harshly.
Right here. Hold it like this and don’t move. OK, right there. No! You moved. What did I tell you?!
It is clear that the attending surgeon could not tolerate the resident’s incompetence at holding the scope in the correct place.
I’m far behind the sterile zone trying to make out what’s on the screen. My eyes are attached to the monitor but I can’t tell the difference when the surgeon corrects the resident. The monitor shows the exact same view, maybe zoomed in just a little bit. But the surgeon corrects the resident a few more times. It’s almost as if his main goal in this surgery is to humiliate the resident.
The atmosphere of the operating room reflects the surgeon’s mood. The anesthesiologist, scrub nurse, floor nurse and the students are in tense silence. I want to ask a question but I’m hesitant. I’m afraid that I might trigger another outburst so I stay put. I make a mental note to ask the resident later.
The surgery is finally over and the surgeon storms off muttering how bad the resident was at such a simple task. As soon as the doors close behind him, there is a collective sigh of relief. I overhear the nurses chatting and sympathizing with the poor resident. I follow the resident out and ask my question. Despite having been harshly scorned, the resident patiently explains the anatomy in detail so that I understand. I thank him and shyly ask him if he’s OK.
Yeah, I’m fine. I’m used to it. I used to be a family doctor and got married, had a child, and earned some money but then I realized that I didn’t like being a family doctor. So, I’m went back to get trained as a surgeon. It’s not easy but this is what I want to do.
I walked away from that conversation admiring the resident’s courage to restart his career and his willingness to teach me despite the circumstances. I also hoped that the other attendings were less harsh and more willing to teach.