These past few months have been mentally, emotionally, and physically tolling for me as I dealt with a Baker’s cyst that was refractory to aspiration x 2 and conservative treatments. I ended up having to undergo knee surgery for it, and was amazed by all the things I had missed serving on the provider side, while I was on my surgery rotation. For example, patients’ pre-surgical anxiety is a very real phenomenon that should be addressed pre-operatively to achieve better outcomes post-operatively and to provide good patient care. I experienced tremendous anxiety these past few months with uncertainty about what would become of my knee after surgery, and anxiety for the operation itself having not undergone surgery previously. Immediately before my surgery, an anesthesiologist came in to discuss what side effects I should be aware of, which is something I overlooked during my surgery rotation as well. He informed me that post-op nausea is a very common side effect that many patients are not aware of, and for which they provide at least three prophylactic medications peri-operatively. I was so busy concerning myself with the complications of surgery that I did not even think about anesthesia, which is a significant part of undergoing an operation. I also gained extreme appreciation for the little things physicians can do to build rapport with patients. Something my sport medicine doctor did with each visit was to always begin with open-ended questions to assess what I knew and what I wished to learn more about. This was very appropriate for a medical student who knows much more than a “layman” patient, but may not know the nuances or minute details of a condition and its treatment.
Overall, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the emotional and physical toll that many patients must inevitably undergo in the face of surgery. The procedure will alter your life in some aspect, and the emotions that are experienced pre, peri, and post-operatively must be acknowledged by the provider as just as important as the surgery itself.