Finding Poetry in Surgery
As a sinus surgeon who is often invited to speak around the country, I get the chance to interact with a number of young residents and students. One common thread I see from coast to coast is the grind of training regimes: It’s not unusual for surgeons to stay on their feet for more than a dozen hours straight. The reason for this is not just hazing—although that’s in there—but also the simple fact that surgery demands more of us physically. More stamina, more focus, more grit and emotional resources than many other specialties.
A recent piece in Scientific American offered a student’s take on encountering this experience for the first time. She cites what she calls the “economy of surgery,” that dimension of the craft that demands that we surrender extraneous distractions and focus 100% on the task at hand. Here’s her take:
It was time to lose the pretty business casual outfits and fancy footwear of internal medicine, and trade them in for utilitarian scrubs and clogs. It promised to be a time of talking less and getting things done.
I perform a number of surgeries every week. Some of these are as simple as in-office balloon sinuplasty, while others may involve cases like nasal reconstruction that can require a team working in tandem for several hours. No matter what the patient or circumstance, the experience is indeed Zen-like: one can only excel at this work with extraordinary stillness and concentration.
I recommend the article as a small glimpse into what we do every day, and I hope that those of you who resonate with it will seek out an experienced sinus surgeon when it comes time to restore your respiration.