Operating Room Confessions: What Doctors Are Most Afraid Of And Other Things

Patricia Didelot - Author

Mar. 23 2015, Updated 1:45 p.m. ET

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the operating room as your doctor gets ready to slice you open? In a candid confession, a surgeon tells all about what takes place once you go under, and what they’re most afraid of.

Speaking to the Daily Beast, this doctor came clean, and while some of the facts are not that surprising, others are. Let’s face it, most of us can’t keep to think of all sorts of things that can go wrong during a surgery, no matter how routine.

There’s nothing routine about going under the knife, but contrary to what you may think from their confident demeanor, your surgeon really does care if something goes wrong.

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Despite their larger-than-life reputation, surgeons have a lot of insecurities about their job, which is good and bad. When we have to have an operation, we want someone who knows exactly what they’re doing and is not going to make any mistakes.

However, surgeons are only human and as such, they fail from time to time. One of the most comforting things that this surgeon shared is that, in fact, his colleagues don’t think they are gods. Far from it, most are, despite what the rest of us may think, very humble human beings. Of course, as in any other profession, there are those who are overly arrogant, but that is not the majority.

Another surprising fact this doctor shared is that he respects internal medicine colleagues tremendously, despite constant teasing.

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“Seeing blood may be easy for me, but I can’t stomach the idea of seeing someone month after month for the same malady, giving them a pill to make something higher or lower, faster or slower, wetter or dryer. I can’t imagine seeing dozens of screaming children complaining of earaches and stuffy noses day after day. The truth is that I am glad people with patience like them exist, because I could never do what they do.”

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So what exactly happens in the operating room after the lights go out for the patient? It’s not as quiet and calm as you may think. Quite the opposite and surprisingly, doctors let their hair down and usually joke around and are loud, very loud. Crude jokes, heavy metal — but never making fun of a patient — are common occurrences.

But surgeons are terrified of leaving something inside a patient or removing the wrong organ, according to this doctor. They also get nervous about operating on an obese person, because it is much more difficult to get inside those ailing organs if they have to fight through layers of fat.

Don’t ever worry that the surgeon is going to see you naked, since everyone is in their natural state when they come into the operating room. One of the most interesting things to come out of this confession is that contrary to popular belief, our insides don’t look the same as they do in anatomy books. It’s usually harder to work around veins and arteries than most people think.

Finally for a surgeon, the bandage is really important. Believe it or not, that little (or big) patch is one of the things a doctor will spend some time while in the operating room. The surgery may be a success, but if the patient wakes up from an appendicitis surgery and that patch is a mess, it’s not good. It has to look perfect.

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Medicine is a stressful career and surgeons are undeniably some of the hardest working professionals there are. They also work in a very profitable field, according to Dr. Marty Makary — one of the leading surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the author of Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, — who spoke with ABC News in 2010.

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“By and large, many doctors are still paid on what we call in the industry an ‘eat what you kill’ model. If you do an operation, you will go home with a thousand or two thousand dollars more than if you didn’t do the operation.

“The incentives are huge. If you look at pap smears, back surgery, heart stents — there is a lot out there that we are doing that we shouldn’t be doing.”

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Surgeons and operating rooms are scary for most people and as in any other fields there are good ones and bad ones, however, most truly want to take care of their patients and bring them back to the best possible state.

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]


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