Friday, December 26, 2008

How To Scrub For Surgery

Scrubbing into an OR is part of any medical school education, but one that does not seem to be formally discussed much. A medical student's first time in an OR can be an intimidating experience for this reason. The OR has its own rules and culture, which may seem byzantine at first to the uninitiated. For me, the worst part was getting into the OR: specifically, how do I scrub for surgery?

I've tried to address this previously in posts like:
Perhaps you might be wondering why I am so concerned about scrubbing for surgery. Well, hearing about my first time might explain. The experience was horrible. I was doing a 1 month rotation in Mexico City, Mexico between my first and second years of medical school. I had never been in an OR before, much less on a rotation of any kind. Even though I had watched people in scrub in several times before I ever had to, there were all sorts of subtleties that escaped my notice. When my time finally came, the attending simply said "Go scrub" in Spanish with no instructions. The washing wasn't too bad, but putting on the gown was a disaster. I did not understand what to put on first, what I could touch, how to turn. The nurses tried to help, but I was already stressed and my Spanish wasn't that good! The instructions yelled in Spanish just confused me more! Finally, after struggling for a few minutes, I managed to get scrubbed in, but you can imagine how little confidence the surgeon had in me after that performance. While my little mistakes are no match for those of a resident placing a central line for the first time (as described in 'Complications' by surgeon Atul Gawande), they still left an indelible impression on me. Entering an OR for a laparoscopic procedure (heh, or IR suite) is not so daunting these days, but I'll never forget my first time!

Updated 2015-12-18

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