June 5, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Surgery is one of the most challenging of all medical specialties and not surprisingly it also has one of the longest education and training pathways. Being a surgeon involves long hours of standing, a high level of precision and manual dexterity, the ability to make life-or-death decisions within seconds, the ability to work well in a team and outstanding communication and leadership skills. Last but certainly not least, it involves dealing with blood, sometimes copious amounts of it. If it sounds daunting, it’s because it is just that.
So why would anyone choose this specialty at all? Because, despite the challenges and extraordinary demands of this specialty, the satisfaction you feel at the end of a successful surgery is unparalleled. Nothing can compare with that absolute sense of achievement that comes from knowing that you’ve saved a person’s life or helped improve their quality of life. The rewards justify anything you may have to go through. However, because of the long hard road that you have to go through to get to the prize, it is crucial that you take time to decide whether this specialty is really for you. The last thing you need is to work hard to become a surgeon only to realise that it is not really a good fit for your aptitude or your personality.
One of the things that can really help you obtain this valuable insight is by gaining some first-hand clinical experience in surgery. There are two ways you can do this. The first is by shadowing a surgeon and the second is by doing a medical placement that includes surgery as part of the experience.
Looking for shadowing opportunities in hospitals closest to you is the best way to start. Some hospitals that encourage this shadowing will usually mention it on their website along with the terms and conditions so the first step would be to browse through the websites of the closest hospitals. If it’s not mentioned, get the hospital’s contact details and call them anyway.
If nothing works out with any of the shortlisted hospitals, expand your search radius and check out hospitals that may be a little further away.
A word of caution – don’t expect it to be easy. Not many surgeons like the idea of having pre-med onlookers in their way when they are performing any surgery so be prepared for a lot of refusals before you get lucky. Besides, legal implications are a major concern as patients could object to this ‘invasion of privacy’.
Placements in developing countries offer not just an easier route but also a more enriching experience for anyone looking for surgery work experience. These hospitals are more than happy to have a helping hand and welcome pre-med students from all over. The experience at these hospitals can be a real eye-opener as you see surgeons treating patients and performing procedures under the most challenging circumstances. These hospitals are often short-staffed and ill-equipped. There’s no sophisticated medical equipment to help doctors perform complex operations. This is bare-bones surgery experience that will change your perception of what being a surgeon is really about and will help you know for sure whether this specialty is for you.