Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Surgeons, The Next Generation

Surgeons aren't trained the same way anymore. And that's a good thing. We are starting to get our annual crop of newly trained surgeons onto the medical staff. Each year I marvel at how different this younger generation of surgeons is compared to the old timers.

By way of example, one of our surgeons is this gray haired, cantankerous, curmudgeonly, old coot who has been practicing longer than I've had my driver's license. He has this imperious attitude typical of surgeons of his time. He doesn't like hearing anybody talking in the OR unless it is his own voice. He has been known to throw surgical instruments and staff out of the operating room. Don't even think about letting your cell phone ring and answering a personal call while he's working. And he doesn't like music. This surgeon has been written up to the hospital administration numerous times. He has had to take anger management classes to control his temper. But as they say, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. He continues his cranky obnoxious behavior while the hospital looks the other way because he brings in many good paying patients.

Then recently, he hired a bright young new surgeon as his partner. What a total breath of fresh air the new doctor has brought to the operating room. He is funny. He enjoys a good conversation while he's working. He even likes rock and roll. Everybody loves to work with him. Unfortunately, to work with the new guy, one also has to work with the older one since they are partners. The senior surgeon will scrub in during the middle of a case just so he can say he was involved with the procedure. Then the curtain falls and everybody pipes down while he is in the room. The OR falls quiet for the duration of the time he is in there. Then when he has finished with his portion of the case and leaves, the sun shines again, the birds are singing, and my iPod volume gets cranked up to eleven. The room is once again a happy place where people enjoy working and taking care of the patient.

This is not an isolated instance. Most of our new surgeons from the past decade share similar traits. They're extremely knowledgeable, have great hands, and love to have a good time while operating. Many of the older generation of surgeons by contrast appear like they are on the verge of a psychopathic tantrum. If the taming of surgical residency hours can produce such dramatic changes in in surgeons' attitudes, I say keep cutting those hours, patient care experience be damned. A happy operating room staff makes for better patient care. And isn't what this is supposed to be all about?

1 comment:

  1. I could be wrong but I would think having a happy OR rather than one where you're always on your toes, walking on egg shells, afraid of making missteps, or whatever, would actually improve patient care overall. In other words, if the staff is happy, rather than fearful, I would think it'd reflect in their work and thus be better for the patient too.