The species called surgical residents….


July 1 is considered to be doctor’s day in India. Celebrated to honour the fabled physician Dr BC Roy whose birth and death anniversary falls on the day. All the Doctor’s Day wishes, messages and stories on my Facebook news feed got me reminiscing about my PG/residency years. It has not been long since I finished, but it seems like it was eons ago. Those few years shaped and moulded me into the person I am today. The pressure is incredibly intense during residency, and there are only two ways you come out; well-cooked and delicious or burnt and useless (only those who use a pressure cooker to cook will get this one!).

All doctors have some things in common. Most important being the number  of years spent in training. Within the group, surgical residents/ trainees are a taxonomic category all on their own. During their formative (residency) years, changes occur in the very core of their being. They mutate and turn into a different species altogether. They have several unique characteristics. Now, do not misunderstand me. I do not wish to paint everyone with the same brush. Not every surgical resident turns into a arrogant, vain, scalpel crazy surgeon…..wink ….wink…..( or maybe they do….shhhhhh)

Some unique/peculiar/singular traits of a surgical resident:-

  • A good number of them belong to the “alpha female/ male category. Believe they are better than the next girl/guy (either brazenly or secretly).
  • Long hours in the OR with no breaks ultimately lead to the “large bladder, small stomach” syndrome. Result- can go for long periods of time with no food and no bathroom breaks.
  • Blood and gore make their day. The day you don’t touch blood (with the gloves on of course) is a day gone bad.
  • Can eat at any time and can sleep anywhere. Normal human light cycles do not apply. Days and nights merge into one and make no difference to their sleep/wake patterns.
  • Are utterly comfortable consuming food and beverages amidst cadavers and biopsy specimens.
  • Sew buttons using needle holders.
  • Own several torn up and re- sutured Frankenstein-esque pillows and quilts.
  • Practice hand ties and knots in their sleep.
  • Can communicate effectively with fellow residents via eye signals alone. (Spending countless hours together with your face covered and your consultant standing right next to you compels you to adapt and evolve)
  • Even the best of friends compete for, and hoard cases.
  • Have fabulous forearms and defined biceps (6 hours of flexing on a retractor anyone?).
  • Can stand still like a statue for hours. Most times surgical assistance is holding retractors and mopping/suctioning blood. Not as exciting like they show in Grey’s anatomy eh?
  • Knows exactly where to itch when their fellow resident is assisting and needs to itch. (Mostly the face you weirdo!)
  • Most comfortable in their scrubs. It’s like their second skin.
  • Can sleep better on the rotten beds in their duty/on-call room than their own beds.
  • Can be in deep sleep one minute and super alert (enough to ligate the jugular vein) the next.
  • Constantly dream of a day when they can perform all the cool, fancy procedures while the hapless resident does all the dirty work.
  • Their fellow resident becomes their friend, confidante and partner-in crime. Also, their biggest competition.
  • Occasionally suffer from the “God- complex”.
  • Bore their partners/ spouses with endless recounting of OR stories
  • Favourite pastime is ………complaining/ gossiping about the consultants.
  • Most can eat like a pig, drink like a fish and kill it on the dance floor. In short- THEY ARE THE LIFE OF ANY PARTY.

I am sure my surgeon friends will be able to add to the above list (go on, you are more than welcome to).  All or some of the above may be true. But it does not retract from the fact that the surgical resident is also incredibly hard working and utterly dedicated to her/his craft. They are some of the most focused individuals one can meet. They spend most of their best years, honing their skills and practicing their craft. So, please excuse and forgive them when they talk big and get on your nerves. It’s just a coping mechanism….

Happy Doctor’s Day Y’all!


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