General Surgery Rotation

  • We both had very different experiences in this rotation.
  • Katie’s take on General Surgery:  I can’t believe how much I loved this rotation! One of my classmates had a bad experience on this rotation so I was thinking I was going to have a bad experience as well.
    • Tip: Go into each rotation with an open mind! We had clinic maybe 2.5 days a week and most of those days were quite short.  The rest of the time was spent operating!  We had privileges at 4 different hospitals so there was definitely driving involved, but it was all within 35 min of my house.  Towards the end of the rotation he was allowing me to close on my own.  We saw a variety of general surgery procedures but he also specialized in Bariatric surgery which added a nice variety.
  • Emily’s view:  This was my hardest rotation but in the end, I learned the most which made the challenges all worth it.  My original focus post-graduation was to get a job in Pediatric Orthopedics so I wanted my surgical rotation to be in pediatrics.  I worked extremely long hours, typically from 6-6 a little earlier or even later depending on our days and I did this schedule 5 days a week.  With this many hours in this hospital it was hard for me to find time to study.  I was exhausted and hit my breaking point during this rotation.  My poor friends and support system were at their wits end trying to keep me sane!  Like I said though, I learned so much.  I even had the opportunity to first assist in NICU surgeries with 4 pound babies which was a life changing experience that I am so grateful for.
  • Things to brush up on prior to this rotation: causes post op fever, compartment syndrome, acute abdomen, splinting, physical exam (of the entire body but pay close attention to abdomen), appropriate labs and associated findings with acute abdomen conditions
  • Skills to brush up on prior to rotation: gowning/gloving, sterile technique, suturing, knot throwing (watch videos on you tube, practice in your school’s lab)
  • The absolute must of a book to purchase and Apps to use
    • Surgical Recall
    • Human Anatomy Atlas… its expensive but I used it frequently
  • You should know your surgery schedule prior to the day of. The night before you need to study the details of the disease/injury/illness that causes the need for surgery.  (What caused it, what are the lab values, x-ray findings in this condition, what are non-operative treatments available, steps of the actual procedure, typical post op protocols).
  • During surgery, there is a lot of time for surgeons to “pimp” you which is why it is essential for you to prep the cases the night before. If you don’t know the answer, DON’T GUESS.  Simply say “I don’t know the answer; I’ll happily look it up when the case is finished and be sure to have a full understanding after reading tonight.”
  • While assisting in surgery, your job is to anticipate the surgeons next move and be one step ahead of him or her. This takes time, learning and practice.  You will hear the word ANTICIPATE repeatedly during this rotation.
    • The OR is a magical place once you are comfortable. You MUST know your place.  Scrub techs and circulating nurses will EAT you alive if you do not humble yourself. When you walk into an OR room always make sure you have your mask on and you are ready to assist in set up.  Write your name and title on the white board with your glove size.  NEVER do anything prior to asking.  Ask the scrub tech if he or she prefers that you get your own gown and gloves or if they would like to get them for you.  KNOW HOW TO GOWN AND GLOVE YOURSELF and DO NOT EXPECT them to do it for you.  Once surgery is finished, unless instructed otherwise by your preceptor, stay and help with transferring the patient, putting away supplies, and preparing the room for the next surgery.  Help goes a long way and staff will notice/be more willing to help you learn.
  • This was one of the toughest EOR exams. It is somewhat all encompassing similar to IM and FM.  As long as you study daily for this, you should be fine.  We both read Surgical Recall cover to cover.

Don’t forget about all of the resources available at:


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