Melkor

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Jun 27, 2010
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Starting tomorrow I am going to be shadowing a neurosurgeon for a two week period in Ohio and I was just wondering if anyone with past experience shadowing this specialty would care to give me any tips or hints to make sure I 1.) don't do something really stupid or 2.) do something intelligent. I am staying with his family (met the Dr. once before, not the family) for the entire 2 weeks as getting a hotel for that amount of time is way beyond my budget, so he is being extremely hospitable and I just dont want to do anything to mess him up or look stupid in front of his colleagues. I have previously shadowed an Ob/gyn and gastroenterologist both for 2 week time periods which also included living with the doctors (both doctors were far away from where I lived) so I am pretty comfortable living in some one elses house and pretty comfortable shadowing. I just haven't been able to get in the OR many times yet and the cases he will be working on this week seem pretty intense so I don't want to do anything too stupid while watching.
 

Astarael

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Mar 25, 2010
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1) Your name is awesome.

2) There are other threads on this - just use the search box in the upper right hand corner of your screen to find them. They'll be a lot more informative than this thread will be (at least until several more people post here). That being said, I'll highlight a couple of points:


  • You really are a shadow, and you should strive to not get in the way as much as possible.
  • That being said, if somebody offers you something, do it! This could include moving closer to the field, or something like that.
  • Politely introduce yourself to the circulating nurse when you enter the operating room. They generally like to know why everyone is in the room, and may not know that you are shadowing the doctor.
  • Don't lock your knees. I don't know about your past experience in the OR, but my impression is that some brain surgeries can be quite lengthy, and if you lock those knees, you're gonna topple over at some point.
  • Don't try to do something clever. If that's going to happen, it'll just happen on its own.

That's all I can think of. Good luck!
 
May 1, 2010
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Make sure that you consciously stay well clear of the sterile field. Just getting close could cause some people to worry.

I generally watched from behind the drapes with the anesthesiologist unless invited to come stand somewhere else for a better view. You can learn alot from talking to the anesthesiologist.

The first time I went into the OR, I was hesitant to talk to the neurosurgeon. I didn't want to distract him or be any kind of liability. He ended up engaging me in conversation first. I was pretty surprised when a neurosurgeon told me that some new bbq place down the street was "the ****ing bomb diggity" while inserting a metal cage into somebody's spine. Point being, don't be afraid to ask questions unless something really intense is going on. You'll recognize these situations pretty easily if they occur. Have fun, and like the above poster stated, don't lock your knees!
 

mmmcdowe

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Trying to do something clever is a great way to do something really stupid. Unless you are trying to get a LOR from him, which I wouldn't recommend unless you are going to be with him for many, many hours (not likely with neurosurgeons), impressing him really doesn't matter. If anything, he's the one who is going to impress you. People who open their practices to shadows tend to genuinely love what they do and are trying to promote an interest (or at least a respect for their work) in others. That, or they are forced to by their department...
 
Jun 25, 2010
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where do you live? why do you have to pack up and move every time you shadow? i can't imagine living with a doctor at his house while you shadow him. people don't do that here
 

wolverinepwns

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STAY a shadow, as a premed we are all striving for greatness, but when shadowing, specially when its your first day, STAY A SHADOW! and as mentioned, if you end up scrubing in, DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING just OBSERVE! and make sure YOU PEE BEFORE the operation! cuz there is nothing worse than having to pee and not being able to while you're scurbed in a long operation!
 

sgtbrushes

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I will echo what others have said in that you really do not want to be clever when shadowing. Being an undergraduate student, there is pretty much nothing you can say that will impress the surgeon. If you can make it through a surgery without contaminating anything or getting in the way, that is what will impress the Doc.
 

getright

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Feb 24, 2010
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where do you live? why do you have to pack up and move every time you shadow? i can't imagine living with a doctor at his house while you shadow him. people don't do that here
That's freakin weird.
 

WorldChanger36

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OP, What kind of hook ups do you have here? Shadowing in Neuro is rare as it is but your rooming up with the guy?

Shoot, I shadowed a heme/oncologist and that was hard to get. Then I asked him to show me what the majority of his job entailed. He said ok a promptly sat me down at his computer and told me to type what he said. For the next three hours I typed his insurance claims and dicertatcion forms. Then he asked... "So you still want to be a doctor?"
When I showed up the next day, he allowed me to observe a bone marrow biopsy. After that he asked again if I still wanted to be a doctor and I said yes. He replied, "yeah I guess you really do, most don't come back after doing the paperwork." Shadowed with him a few more times, do paper work and getting a good idea about informed consent and the differences between medical, surgerical, and radio oncology.

Yeah I would love to shadow a neuro for even just an hour. Shoot I will do paperwork too.... ha
 
Oct 15, 2010
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I did a 16-week surgical internship at my local hospital, which included 2-week rotations in each specialty. My neurosurgery rotation was by far the least interactive, and the most repetitive. I would hang out with the anesthesiologist for the first few days and then scrub in once you get a handle on the basic procedures. Definitely establish a rapport wth the circulating nurse and anaesthesia crew... this is an extremely valuable asset in the OR. definitely volunteer yourself to help the surgical tech open, and maybe even help position the patient (nurses really appreciate this). Being friendly to everyone will make your experience much more enjoyable and you'll probably get a hell of a lot more out it also.
 

rmsgolfer

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The same thing I joke with my wife when she caddies for me--

Show up, keep up, and shut up.

As a pre-med I was able to do the same thing and it is very rare, so be on your best behavior and take it all in. I'm not saying neurosurgeons need to be deified but they are in pretty high stress positions and usually have some screw loose (you almost have to to want to go into medicine in the first place) which has made them successful and able to work the way they do.

As a pre-med you know nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. Other pre-meds I speak to tend to jump into certain conversations because they recognized a word or a disease from some tv show on the night before, but just play it cool. No one expects you to rattle off treatments plans or differentials

Ask pertinent questions when the time is right (preferably not when the doc is navigating around the optic nerves or removing tumors) and understand that you may be asked questions where you have no idea, but they are all learning moments. What will you learn if the doc only asks you things that you already know?

Enjoy the experience. Take a dump in the morning to avoid the "sorry but I have to leave before i crap on your floor" conversation. It will seem foreign to you but have fun, whats the point if your not having fun!

cheers.
 
OP
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Melkor

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Thanks for all of the tips.

I live in a pretty small town in Colorado-The biggest city (over 100,000 people) within an 8 hour driving radius is Denver. Also, the work I have done over the past few years has let me meet with a lot of different doctors and it just seems like it would be a more enjoyable and more educational shadowing experience if it is with someone I already know (and have worked with) as apposed to a completely random doctor who more than likely won't remember anything about me five minutes after I leave their office.

Anyways, today was a lot of fun-saw a few patients in the morning and got to see 2 different x-stops put in and a carpal tunnel release surgery after lunch. Sadly, it doesn't look like any skulls will be opened until next week...
 

chman

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Jun 7, 2009
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I advise that when he/she is examining the patient, or performing surgery, tell him or her: "that is no way to get a-head."

Ok, bad neuro joke I know.