My First Experience in the OR

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

One of the “requirements” for being premed is to shadow doctors to see if you actually want to devote your life to medicine. It shows medical schools that you have a general understanding of what a doctor does day-to-day and can also give you an idea of what specialty you may want to {or not want to} pursue one day. Once you have your interests honed, definitely check out the emphasis category on the premium tool (!

I am fortunate enough to have an uncle who is an emergency room physician in a small, rural hospital and he has let me shadow him a few times, but I wanted to see a surgery. He was kind enough to put me in contact with a general surgeon who works at the same hospital and she allowed me to shadow for two days.

Hospitals can be a bit annoying because they limit the number of hours a student can shadow, but I was fortunate for any amount of shadowing in the operating room.

Day One

My first day of shadowing was the doctor’s operating day so we started off by meeting the patient in the pre-operative section. Then the doctor took me to the doctor’s locker room and I put on my first pair of surgical scrubs!

While the doc was scrubbing in, she was telling me all about being in the OR; that I can’t touch anything, where I’ll be standing and what she will be doing.

The operation was a big hernia repair; the lump it caused was incredibly visible, even to someone who had never seen a hernia in her life! My perch was behind the surgical drape, next to the anesthesiologist {and on top of a step stool because I’m only 5’1.}

I was in absolute awe throughout the entire operation, every single thing the surgeon did was just amazing to me! The hernia was so large that almost all of the patient’s small intestines were in the hernia sac so to repair it, the surgeon had to cut out the sac and at one point, all of the small intestines were just sitting on the patient’s midsection! It was awesome! Definitely the most memorable part of the surgery.

At the end, the anesthesiologist and surgical assistants said that I was the first student they had who didn’t faint throughout the entire surgery, I call that a success!

The rest of the day consisted of following up with past surgical patients and looking over what clinic patients we would have the next day.

Day Two

The second day of shadowing was considered a “more boring” day according to the surgeon, but for me, it was almost as awe-filled as the first day!

Since this surgeon works at a small rural hospital, she does more things than a general surgeon in a large city would do. One of those things are colonoscopies. Colonoscopies don’t sound glamorous to most people; however, I was amazed.

Yeah, sure, you are looking at bowels and poop on a screen but I was so amazed at how medicine and technology have progressed. Our body is dark inside and we can really only see inside our mouths with the naked eye. But we have developed a small, flexible camera that can light up and see inside our bodies and diagnosis illness! It is something small, but so incredible!

The second half of the day was for clinic to see new patients and follow up with previous patients. I never knew surgeons had a clinic component and it was interesting seeing the initial steps that come before the actual surgery.

Shadowing a general surgeon was one of my favorite moments in my premed journey; it added a surgical specialty to my ever-growing list of potential specialties, it proved that my stomach can handle blood and guts and it introduced me to an awesome bossbabe surgeon role model!

Set Up A Shadowing Experience

Premeds, I know how hard it is to set up a shadowing experience; hospitals have tons of paperwork and hoops to jump through and most limit the number of hours allowed to shadow. But keep your head up!

Contact private practice docs who might not have strict limits or paperwork or ask your friends and family if they know of a doc who would be open to having a student shadow! The answer is always “no” if you don’t ask!

I also posted on my Facebook asking if anyone knew a doctor who would be open to having a shadow. That is how I was able to shadow a dermatologist!

Do you have a shadowing experience that has shaped you? Write about it in the comments or go to my DMs at @medicineandmoscato and tell me about it!