The Off-Service Resident’s Guide to the Surgical Rotation

27 Sep 2019

By Natalie Tully, MD, MPH

So, you find yourself a freshly minted doctor, headed off to Family Medicine, Urology, Radiology, or any other non-General Surgery residency, and yet here you sit stand through the 8th hour of a case that was posted as a 90 minute abdominal washout and wound vac exchange. How do you make time to study, and where do you even begin? Can you bathe in caffeine? Below are a few tips to help you navigate the weeks or months that you’ll be spending on service with us in surgery:

1.     Educational Resources

a.     Medical Knowledge: Remember-this isn’t your primary field, and everyone around you should be cognizant of that. You should look for resources that will help you to gain what you need from the rotation

1.     Quick Review: Fiser’s Review- Bullet points on major General Surgery Topics

2.     Deeper Dives: Cameron’s Current Surgical Therapy-Lighter on basic science than other textbooks, with more clinical focus.

3.     Try to get a few bonus points on rounds- Surgical Recall: Scattershooting pearls organized by subspecialty.

                                          ii.         You don’t have to just read- Behind the Knife’s ABSITE reviews offer concise content that is pertinent to what can be expected of any resident to know or learn from General Surgery. Episodes are an hour or less and are available on a variety of platforms, including Spotify.

b.     Prep for the OR

                                           i.         Zollinger’s Atlas of Surgical Operations-Short reviews of various surgeries with brief anatomy overview and operative indications.

                                          ii.         Operative Dictations in General and Vascular Surgery- while this is intended as a guide to dictating various operations, it serves as a concise procedural guide that can be read prior to scrubbing in on a case to gain insight on the key steps and nuances of a procedure.

2.     Survival Tips

a.     Food & Drink: More than on other services, you may find it hard to find time to stop and eat/drink. Try to stock your white coat/bag/locker with nonperishable snacks that you can eat on the go. The last thing you want is to be unable to focus in a case because you’re severely hangry. Stay hydrated! It sounds so simple, but it’ll help keep you going through long days and combat lightheadedness in the OR.

b.     Self: Long hours and a stressful environment necessitate self care. Even though you may feel pressed for time, be sure to take even 10-20 minutes a day doing something that you enjoy.

Ultimately, you’re a guest on our service, and having varied insight should ideally add to the educational experience for all team members, and improve patient care. Surgery is  demanding, but be wary of letting yourself settle for a miserable experience-we do have fun sometimes (typically scheduled for Wednesdays, 14:30-14:45). We’re glad to have you, and welcome to the jungle-for a few weeks, at least. What questions do you have for your time on surgery? Or what advice do you have to offer off-service residents? Answer in the comments section below!

Natalie Tully is a General Surgery Intern at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX. She completed her B.S. in Human Biology at The University of Texas at Austin, and her M.D. and M.P.H. at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She is cultivating her research interests, but would ultimately like to find ways to make her MD and MPH degrees intersect surrounding optimization of trauma systems and surgical education. In her free time, she enjoys running, barbecueing, and spending time with her dog, Sadie and fiance, Greg. Find her on Twitter: @utully13


Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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