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Day in the Life of a Surgery Resident

4:45 am

My alarm goes off and I hop out of bed. I have 30 minutes to get ready and get my things together. I grab my iPad and the journal articles I am reading for the upcoming cases I have later this week.


I drop my bag off in my locker and put on my white coat. I find a computer, log my pager in, and take a quick glance at our list and patients in our EHR system. Looks like we have 3 new patients. I will hear more about them from the PGY-1 when we run the list. I should check the OR schedule as well to see if there are any changes such as added or cancelled cases, especially for the case to which I am assigned. Looks like there is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy added to the schedule. Ready to head upstairs to meet the team!


I meet up with the team and the PGY-1, who gives us a list with details such as diet, antibiotics, and special medications. She leads off the morning review of our patients with the overnight events on our patients and tells us about new patients. The Chief of the service gives the team a summary of the changes to the OR case assignments and who will be going to office today. Looks like I am going get to do the laparoscopic cholecystectomy in addition to my other case, which is a melanoma excision with sentinel lymph node biopsy.

We see our patients, take down dressings, examine wounds, and review the daily plans with each one. We have a team of residents on the Surgical Oncology service and a PA, so we try to get some of our electronic progress notes started on rounds. Rounds are done in about an hour and we have time to sit down together for breakfast and to “run the list.” This is where we recap the plan on each patient.

7:00 am

It’s Thursday, so we have our weekly M&M conference at 7 AM. We know the topic ahead of time so we all have studied up. Following this is our 8 AM Surgical Grand Rounds. These are always interesting since we get a lot of visiting speakers. At 9 AM we have surgical education time where we have ABSITE question review this week. Last week we had journal club.
(Our daily conference schedule)


We quickly reconvene as a team and check in on any events on our patients while we were in conference. The PA and junior residents divide up the remaining progress notes and floor work. The Chief and I make our way down to the OR to meet our patients in the preop area. The two medical students on our service will be participating in our cases. I am doing the laparoscopic cholecystectomy first. I discuss a few key points to the operation with the medical student and then we head back to the OR.
(Message from our Chief Resident)


In the OR, I hand off my gloves to the scrub tech, put my name on the whiteboard, and log into the EHR system. I pull up the imaging from our patient and review her labs. The attending comes in and we discuss the patients she has in-house. I fill the team in on the updated plans before the case starts.

The attending, medical student, and I discuss the case we are about to do, review the imaging together, and talk through the steps of the operation. In this patient, we are going to be doing an intraoperative cholangiogram. All three of us go scrub and get gowned and gloved for the operation. The patient was prepped by the circulating nurse, so we drape the abdomen, set up our laparoscopic equipment, and prepare for the time-out. We all introduce ourselves and start the operation. We discuss whether to place our umbilical port supraumbilical or infraumbilical. Supraumbilical it is. We start the case and we are done about an hour and half later.

12:30 pm

Done with the cholecystectomy and orders are in. I page the team to check-in and get updates. My melanoma excision is going in about 45 minutes. I am going to meet her in Preop and get some lunch quickly. I should have time to go check on the patient who got a CT-guided drainage of a fluid collection earlier this morning. The medical student and I take some time to discuss the case we just did while walking up to the cafeteria and over lunch. Maybe we can head down the skills labs together later this week to work on suturing!


Cases are done for the day and we have all been getting piecemeal updates on patients over the day. It is now time for us to sit down together and review all the events and plans for overnight with the Chief. We prepare a list with details for the resident who will be covering our service overnight.


Time to head out. The PGY-1 signs out our service to the overnight resident and we plan to start rounds at 5:45 again tomorrow morning. I give my husband a call on my way out of the hospital to see what he would like to have for dinner.


After dinner, I watch some TV to unwind. Then I get in 30 to 45 minutes of reading and ABSITE prep questions.


Lights out. It is really important that I get my sleep. Before I know it, my alarm will be going off again for another day!