I am currently on my general surgery rotation with a surgical group that is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the largest city in North Carolina. My time is split between inpatient and outpatient care depending on the location for the day. My daily schedule varies and is usually split between morning and afternoon activities. Basically, if clinic hours are in the morning, then surgeries are in the afternoon and vice versa. There are a few days when there are no clinic hours and the entire day is in the operating room.
A typical day begins around 7 am by rounding on any patients from the day before at the hospital. This includes reviewing recent lab results, examining the patient, and writing progress notes. That leaves just enough time to change into scrubs, get “scrubbed in”, and be ready to assist with the first surgery by 8 am. The majority of the surgeries performed by my preceptor are laparoscopic; which means I get to help “drive” the camera. This is not as easy as it sounds, but I’ve gotten the hang of it now. After the surgery is complete, my preceptor usually lets me help close the incision sites. Between surgeries, there is generally enough time to grab a snack, review the next patient’s chart, and review study material to prepare for questions my preceptor normally throws my way during surgery. Then it is time for the next surgery and the routine starts all over again, continuing until it is time for clinic hours. There are normally 3 or 4 surgeries each day and sometimes up to 8 surgeries if we are in the OR the entire day.
Before clinic starts, I grab a quick lunch and drive over to the office location. The majority of clinic appointments are either post-op followups or new patient evaluations for surgery. Post-op appointments are usually quick if the patient’s incision sites are healing well or the patient is progressing as expected but new patient evaluations can take more time. My job is to interview and examine the patients and present their cases to my preceptor by adding a differential diagnosis and my assessment and plan. My preceptor will either agree or respond with what he would do differently. Clinic appointments are just as fast paced as the surgery schedule in that as soon as a patient’s appointment is over, the routine starts over again with just enough time to write notes for that visit.
Some days I work with a different preceptor at a different hospital and office location but the routine remains mostly the same throughout this surgical rotation. The major difference at this second location is that most of the clinic appointments are for in-office procedures. Again, I interview and examine the patient and then present my findings and recommendations to the preceptor. I then assist the preceptor with the procedure.
Before leaving to go home, I’m responsible for rounding on any patients that are admitted and writing more progress notes. Once I’m home, I eat dinner and relax for a bit with my husband. Later in the evening, I review study material for the end of rotation exam and then log in from home to read up on patient charts for surgeries the next day. Before I know it, I’m asleep.
I cannot believe I’m almost done with my final rotation of the clinical year. In a little over a month, I will have completed the program and be eligible to take the national exam to become a Physician Assistant! What an awesome experience these past two years have been!