When a doctor says ‘surgery’ or ‘operation’, the first reaction of a patient to this word is usually apprehension. For a surgeon, however, it is routine.
The operation theatre (OT), essentially just a room, is a place, which has different connotations to different people. For a patient, it is so daunting to even enter the OT. A surgeon usually spends more time in the OT than his home!
The OT scrubs, cap and face mask is what makes all the difference. It is a complete transformation. Work mode is on and you suddenly feel that you are completely in control. Probably like the man who dons his uniform and becomes a soldier.
An operation theatre is a place which is bustling with energy. There are so many things happening at any given time. It is a place which is active throughout the day and night. There are surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, technicians, helpers all busy in their own individual work, yet working together with an aim to get all the surgeries planned for a given day done smoothly. Patients are being wheeled in and out of the operation theatre to the recovery and anxious relatives waiting eagerly outside for some good news. There is always a ‘famous’ doctor’s room/lounge connected to the main operation theatre. This is usually our favourite place to relax in between surgeries. A quick bite or a coffee gets you set for the next case in line. A nice, refreshing chat with colleagues in the doctors’ lounge also makes your day.
I always believe that the work atmosphere has an effect on the mind set of a surgeon, which affects his performance. Since the OT is our everyday work place, it has to be well lit, spacious and comfortable. Once we enter the OT in our scrubs, the sole focus is the patient and the surgery. There is usually a board in the OT, which highlights names of the patients and surgeries which are planned for the day. Mentally the checklist begins of how best to plan the day. One tends to forget everything else and the concentration levels are at their peak. Before starting any surgery, I always make it a point to greet the patient before she is anaesthetised. I go through the file and reports of the patient before washing up for the surgery and mentally revise what procedure I plan to perform. Thereafter, the only thing that matters is the monitor that is attached to the patient for monitoring vital signs and the actual surgery. It is like entering a completely different zone for the next 1-2 hours. Our interactions with assistant surgeons and anaesthetists are also so different inside the OT and outside! For many doctors, some form of instrumental music playing in the background of the surgery is a must. It’s so relaxing! At the end of a busy day, just to sit down for a few minutes in the doctor’s lounge before changing out of the OT scrubs itself is relaxing! Once you change back into normal clothes, you become a different person. Stop thinking like a surgeon for a while, spend some time with family and do all regular chores.
See how different perspectives can be! A patient who is going to be operated will have no idea how the operation theatre in the hospital will be like! Most patients choose a hospital based on the treating doctor or other amenities like rooms and ambience. As a surgeon, however, the most significant room for me in the hospital, to see prior to any surgery, is the operation theatre!
As important as your patient’s surgery is to you, it’s more of our responsibility as your surgeon to do the best job and give you the best results. However, we always need to keep in mind that any operative procedure, however minor or major can be associated with complications. It is finally an operation! We will always give our best and try to minimise it by applying our knowledge, techniques and latest technology, but even then we have our own limitations sometimes and all patients must try and understand that! This is our everyday life. We have chosen to become surgeons. It’s what we enjoy doing and doing it well gives us the utmost satisfaction!