Top Tips for Surgery Placement

Clinical placements are a fantastic learning opportunity so knowing how to take full advantage of them is crucial.

Why am I writing this blog?

I wanted to share my tips on how to survive your first day in surgery – as I know a lot of students are nervous as they start their surgical placements. Surgery can be a scary placement but there are many things you can do to get through it and hopefully learn lots and be able to enjoy it too!

 1) Arrive Early 

I know surgeries already start early (8am) so do I have to come even earlier? I would really recommend it especially on the first day as you don’t know where you’re going, need to find the changing room, get changed into scrubs and find the right theatre etc. If you arrive early you can also go see the patients that are getting surgery that day, you can learn more about them, their symptoms and the surgery they are getting.

2) Meet the Team

I would recommend introducing yourself to one of the nurses, one lead nurse if possible as they oversee things. They’re usually very nice! Tell them which team you are looking for and they can help you find the team. There will be a lot of people in the theatre team when you enter the room: the nurses, healthcare assistants (HCAs), operating department practitioners (ODPs), anaesthetic doctors and surgeons. I would recommend spending time with each one if you can to learn more about their roles.

 3) Theatre Rules to Remember

There are a few important theatre rules that are there to protect the patient and make sure the surgery goes smoothly: make sure you respect them!  Some of these include not entering the anaesthetics room if a patient is in there, entering through the left or right door in each theatre, wearing the appropriate headwear and footwear etc. Make sure you stay alert when the sterile field is open and make sure you don’t touch anything in the area (ask the nurses to point out the exact area) and be careful with all the cables, machines and different equipment. Everyone understand this is a learning experience for you, so you can ask if you are not sure about something!

4) During Surgery

I think it may be good to ask the surgeon directly where they would like you to stand, so you can see but not be in their way and not risk breaking the sterile field. Also, it is very important to tell someone if you feel unwell and step out. They understand and it is absolutely ok if you need to! It happens to everyone! Have a seat or lie down if you feel faint, have some water and sugar and take your time before you go back!

5) Get to know the surgeons!

Some surgeons will jump straight into teaching and will explain what they are doing, while others may not talk as much. It is ok to approach them and ask if they can tell you about the procedure before they get started. If the surgeon says you can ask questions, go for it! If not, then it is best just observe and not ask while they’re in the middle of operating as some surgeons prefer to focus and talk at the end.

Marianne Gazet
Imperial University

About The Author

Marianne is a final year medical student at Imperial College in London with an interest in research and medical education. 

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