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Working at the Veteran’s Administration is akin to working in a different world, and anybody in the medical profession who has ever worked or trained in a VA system knows what I mean. At the VA Spa, the parking lot doesn’t fill up until 7:30am and the halls begin emptying out beginning at 3:30pm- even earlier on Friday afternoon. At the Salt Lake City VA, radiology is not in house nights and weekends, and ordering a right upper quadrant ultrasound for acute cholecystitis during these times is akin to committing a deadly sin. It’s a place where things happen a little slower, where everyone whispers that the staff is a little duller, and where OR turnover is at least an hour (although they claim it averages 36 minutes).
As such, all of the residents call it the VA Spa because this slower pace trickles down to us to some degree. The surgery residents take home call, which has been painful to some extent. For instance, because our new second year resident was coming off nights this week, I had been on call from Friday night all the way through the Wednesday morning. That was moderately painful and we were hurt badly by a CT scan that took 5 hours to complete after being ordered. (No joke. We were… put off.) However, we do get to go home earlier than most of the residents at the U. Beside this, the best part of being at the VA is that on Tuesdays, in the middle of our clinic day, we always have a lunch potluck.
It’s no small secret that I love to cook. More than that, I love to bake. So, when my chief approached me on Monday afternoon and asked me if I wanted to bring dessert or rice, I promptly replied, “Dessert!” I made toffee pecan bars that night. For the next week, I pulled out the bundt cake pan that we had received as a wedding gift and tried a recipe that had been gnawing on me since I had seen it on Joy the Baker. It wasn’t an entire success, but was thoroughly devoured. This past week, I made my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (which also happens to be smitten kitchen‘s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe as well).
And then last week, I had promised another resident a trip to Costco, so despite my heavy eyes from having lost sleep thanks to a middle of the night admit, we went. She needed toilet paper, so I pointed her to the very back corner of the Costco while I made the mistake of perusing the recipe book section. This resulted in my purchasing what seems to be the most promising cookbook in my collection so far: The Slow Cooker Revolution. So far, I’ve made the beginner pulled pork, which is now this household’s go-to recipe for pulled pork. Easy and absolutely delicious and flavorful.
I can’t think of a way to end this blog entry other than to wonder where these two divergent interests will lead me. Sometimes I feel like I was really actually destined to a life of housewifery. Some weeks, I spend more time reading my cookbooks than reading papers and textbooks. And then, Husband reminds me that once we have children, that he has dibs on staying at home with them while I bring home the bacon. I wonder if I will become one of those women my mom used to scoff at: women who could afford every luxury in their kitchen, but never actually got to use any of it.
For fear of somebody from my workplace reading my blog, I can’t say much except to stay very vague.
But there’s this scene in Mean Girls, where Lindsay Lohan is at her goth “true” BFF’s workplace and looking through stuff in the store. She keeps on talking about Regina, because she can’t stop. The line went something like, “I knew that everybody was sick of it and that I hated her guts, but I couldn’t stop talking about her. It was like I was obsessed.” Okay, I probably got the line entirely wrong, but that was the general idea. There’s someone whom I work with…
And there! I’ve already given away too much!
One reason why I chose to go into general surgery is because my patients are asleep. See, I really don’t like to inflict pain. So I prefer that my patients are asleep while I do things to them. This is in contrast to performing procedures in the ER or in the clinic, when the patients are awake.
Anyways, we needed to change a line out of one of our patients today. She had this big honkin’ huge-ass line in her internal jugular vein, and they don’t let you have those on the floor because if something bad happened, nobody would notice that Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so is in his or her room bleeding to death. And after we got the new line in, I got to stitch it back in. I’ll be straight- I didn’t do a great job. I get all scaredy and timid when my patients are awake, because- see above. I’m horrified. Scared.
We took the drapes down, and our patient was crying. In a way, I knew it wasn’t all because of the pain, because we were finished hurting her. I could see on her face the frustration she felt about just… being in the hospital, after a huge operation, in pain and not wanting to ambulate when we were pushing her to get out of bed. Sort of a hopelessness and a “poor me when is this going to end” sort of thing. I’m not pretending I know how it feels to have a huge procedure in which all of your bowels are rearranged, but for some reason, I saw that feeling on her face when the drapes came down. God, I hate it when my patients are conscious.
Anyways, I heard that later that day she was doing really well. I hope she leaves here without having any complications. Looked, I just jinxed it. But every patient with a major operation on this service has had some sort of complication. And we keep getting people coming back in with complications. It’s depressing. And since it’s a new service for me and we’re covering a bajillion attendings, I’ve been on edge all week trying to get off to a good start with everybody.
Like how I should be reading NCCN guidelines for melanoma right now.
Yep, right now.
Like now. Yes. Yes.
Look! I’m alive!
And thankfully, so far all my patients have stayed that way as well.
Right now, I’m in the pediatric surgery resident workroom taking night float call. Starting on pediatric surgery is probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Of course, it helps that my mentor is hellbent on teaching me (so far, he is the only surgeon who asks me to dictate our cases, which is a great way to remember exactly how to do an operation- and forces you to remain concentrated on every detail during the case) and that everybody here at Pediatric Hospital is super nice.
Operating on children is pretty great too. They’re easy to move from the gurney to the operating tables, they (usually) have very little fat, and their tissues are great. Of course, when I have extra time on rounds, I also get to exclaim over how cute all the babies are. Yes, they are cute; no, I don’t want one… right now. (Name that TV show)
However, despite all of the operating that I’ve been able to do, I think the best part about starting internship is that now I know that I made the right choice when I chose this specialty. Lame and cheesy, I know, but I was definitely scared at the end of 4th year that I had made the wrong decision. In the words of GOB, “I have made a huge mistake.”
At the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified, had such low self-esteem (transiently- once in a while I feel semi-competent at my job), or felt so plain out dumb. All were expected, I suppose! Now let’s see how I feel in a few more months.