SciCheer Amanda shares insights on starting surgery rotations

Here’s a guest blog post from Amanda (former St. Louis Rams cheerleader currently pursuing her medical degree at Columbia University!:

Dear Science Cheerleader fans, this is your Science Cheerleader, Amanda. Currently, I am a third year medical student at Columbia University studying to be a doctor. Medical school is a four year professional school (which means a bachelor’s degree is required); at the end of this training, one receives a medical degree, also known as an M.D. The first two years of medical school, the preclinical years, consists of studying how the body works and how the body gets sick. The last two years of medical school focus on learning how to make people better by spending time in the hospital talking to patients, examining them, assessing their medical status daily and learning how to manage their care (i.e what prescriptions they need, setting up discharge plans).

I’m excited because I just started my surgery rotation. On a typical day, I wake up at about 4:30 AM, put on my scrubs (hospital gear) and head to the hospital. At 5 AM, I check on my assigned patients, seeing how they are feeling, touching base with the nurses about any overnight events, examining patients and changing dressings. At 6AM, the surgical team and I meet to talk about all the patients in our care to make sure we are on the same page about the plans of care for the day. At 7:30AM I scrub into my first case which could be anything from repairing a hernia to removing cancer. As a medical student not yet trained as a surgeon, my job is basically to retract the incisions, suction and to help close the field by suturing or stapling the wound shut (always under the direction of many surgeons!) The remainder of my day consists of scrubbing in on other surgeries, writing pre-operative or progress notes, going to didactic sessions where surgeons sit down with 2-4 students for a couple hours to teach, or studying on my own. Every 4th day, I spend 24 hours in the hospital, typically without sleeping, just in case any trauma cases come in. When I have free time, I can study or sometimes check out my favorite blog Science Cheerleader but mostly, I study.

In medical school there is a LOT of studying. During surgeries or when rounding on patients a doctor can easily stop the conversation, turn to the medical student and in front of the whole team ask a question like: “This patient has Crohn’s disease, what is the most common indication for surgery in Crohn’s disease?” As a student you better say “small bowel obstruction.” No one expects the students to answer all the questions correctly because medical school is a learning experience; however, it is important to demonstrate that you are learning and reading on your own. At the end of the five-week rotation that concludes with a clinical skills test and a 2 and a half hour written exam. After this, I get to celebrate for a weekend before starting another rotation.

That’s the third year of medical school in a nutshell but if you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to send in questions. Just email me at penpal@sciencecheerleader.com ! Gooooooooooo Science!