A comment on a previous post reminded me of why I am not going to be a surgeon. I loved surgery, at least, the surgery part of it, and I could see myself enjoying the job. But two things keep me from it: surgeons, and needles.
Now I'm not really afraid of needles in the generalized, five-year-old-getting-a-shot sense. Getting my own blood drawn, I'll offer to help the phlebotomist. I like to watch, and one day I'll probably try putting in my own IV, just for the heck of it.
Ok, maybe not, that's kinda gross.
But the point is, in the abstract, needles don't bother me in the slightest. What bothers me is getting stuck with needles that have already stuck someone whose Hep C/HIV status you don't know, or worse, you do know, and don't like.
This has happened to me, on three separate occasions. The first was my own fault, I pricked myself while suturing, a fairly common occurence, and one I've seen experienced surgeons replicate. Once I saw a surgeon, the eminent aforementioned Dr. Harb, stick himself not once, nor even twice, but four times, in the same operation. Just a bad day I guess. But I digress.
The second time was scary, and an opportunity I missed to practice Christian charity. A tech stabbed me with a huge, bloody, CT-1 needle loaded with 2-0 Vicryl suture as he was trying to take it off the field. Very much his fault, and even the surgeon told him to watch what he was doing. I didn't take the opportunity to do anything but glower at the tech over my mask, proving that my temperment is malleable in all the wrong ways in a given environment. I still regret that.
Third, the real charm, was during a c-section, though not a crash one. The attending was pimping the chief resident during this operation, and his increasingly impolitic observations on her performance riled her up. She started making huge, dramatic movments with both scissors and needle, and in one of her exasperated flourishes, she stabbed me.
After these incidents, I had to go down to Occupational Health, fill out a bunch of forms, and then go get my blood drawn, as another team drew blood on the patient. I guess none of my patients were considered "high risk" so I never took the antiretroviral drugs and interferon which are sometimes given to hapless individuals in this situation. In hindsight, it makes me angry I wasn't given the drugs, since the status of two of the patients was unknown. Fortunately though, all the tests came back negative, and I didn't develop a disease which would kill me.
Waiting for the results of tests ensuring neither I nor the patients had HIV or Hepatitis C was horrible. An experience I don't want to repeat.
So I pooled my thoughts. I realized that the stress of the job, and the people I worked for, had changed my personality into someone I didn't like. I knew coming into medicine the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from patient contact was not zero, but I also realized that 2 out of 3 times something potentially life-threatening happened to me, it was the fault of another person, in the OR. I decided right there that surgery was not the best path for me.