One of my classmate’s scrub cap had the words “Don’t Panic” stitched on the front. I thought that was amazing and so fitting. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone starting a surgery course. Just DON’T PANIC. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that everything is going to be okay. Believe it or not, you have the knowledge and skill set to accomplish these procedures. On top of that, you have your classmates and clinicians working alongside you to help produce the best outcomes.
2—Know the Procedures AND Complications
This seems obvious but it’s worth mentioning. Make sure you’re studying up on the procedures you’ll be doing by reading over the material and watching videos. One of the most helpful things our instructors provided and encouraged us to do was read over potential complications that could arise. In a perfect world, every surgery would go smoothly without any problems. Unfortunately, this is not always the case so make sure you are prepared for the good and bad!
3—Work as a Team
Just like everything in veterinary medicine, teamwork makes the dream work. This REALLY holds true for starting in surgery. Everyone is responsible for a role that will impact the wellbeing and outcome of the patient. Make sure that everyone is on the same page, tasks are organized, and you establish a relationship where everyone feels comfortable asking for help, advice, and simply communicating.
It’s okay if you aren’t the strongest surgeon in the group. Everyone has different levels of experience prior to these courses and you should take advantage of this. For example, one of my surgery groupmates was well experienced with doing spays and neuters and had been helping her vet with these procedures for years. Instead of feeling threatened or discouraged about my own skill set, I utilized her knowledge and advice to help ease my nerves when I was the surgeon and to help strengthen my own techniques. I encouraged her to correct me or test my knowledge by asking me questions during the procedure.
4—Ask for Help
You are now responsible for the lives of real patients. You are NOT a licensed veterinarian with years of experience under your belt and no one expects you to be. So, if you don’t understand how to do something, ASK. If you think you might have made a mistake, ASK. This is the time to put your pride aside and make sure you are providing optimal care for your patient. These surgery courses can be stressful and hectic. Uncertainty is inevitable so just make sure you are asking for help when you are unsure of things.
5—Practice Makes Perfect
Practice holding instruments, suturing, and making hand ties. Anything that you learned to prepare you for these surgeries should be practiced continuously to start forming muscle memory. It can be overwhelming learning all the different suture types, but I promise the more you practice the more confident you will feel and the better your surgery will be.