Monday, October 20, 2008


In medical school, we “rotate" through all different specialties so we can pick the one we like the best. Right now I'm "rotating" through surgery.

I actually like surgery. It's the first time this year I've gotten to "scrub in." That’s the hospital term for scrubbing-your-hands-and-forearms-with-brown-colored-sopey-stuff-that-leaves-you-skin-with-a-brownish-hue. The point of scrubbing is to prevent the spread of infection; very important in surgery, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Basically, the operating room is divided into Sterile Areas and everything else. The Sterile areas are noted by their blue color and consist of tables, draped in blue cloth upon which surgical tools sit, the scrub nurse, clad head to foot in a blue surgical hat and robe, and the patient, who once prepped and draped, becomes an honorary member of the sterile field.

Before you scrub in, you can't touch anything that's sterile. That means stay far away from anything and everything that's blue. I still cringe before placing my hands on anything blue outside of the OR. That includes furniture, clothing... I've been trained well.

Once you’re scrubbed, you can’t touch anything that ISN'T sterile, or blue. So after "scrubbing" you walk into the OR, butting the door with your hip, with your hands held up, not too low, because then their not sterile, and not too high, because then their not sterile. Generally, the scrub nurse is an expert in all things sterile, so when entering the OR, I generally look to him/her for instructions which usually consist of- don't put your hands there, your hands are too high, your hands are too low, watch the table... Basically the scrub nurse protects the OR from the medical student.

Anyway, once you're scrubbed and in the OR, the scrub nurse holds up your sterile gown, letting you put your hands in the sleeves. You also do a "twirl" maneuver to tie the sash of the gown, where another person holds part of the sash, and you literally spin around. I felt really uncomfortable with the gowning part of the set up because I felt like having nurses essentially "dress" me was demeaning to them- tantamount to having them fan me and feed me grapes.

But, it's not demeaning, and it's all in the name of sterility. And, once you've been gowned and put on two sets of gloves, you can help out with the actual surgery. Today this involved holding retractors. In the same position. For a long long time.


ksf said...

haha. i enjoyed this. i'm an MSI on the east coast.

Anonymous said...

"Basically the scrub nurse protects the OR from the medical student."

Hilarious! I haven't started 3rd yr yet but the whole process of scrubbing just seems waaay over the top for my... my attention span is about 20 seconds long... I'm guessing I'll be set by the end of my rotation though ;)