Pink Scrubs and Bowel Obstruction: A NHS Experience

Tolga Guven, a sixth-year student of General Medicine, spent his summer internship at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Tolga Guven.
Photograph: Archive of T. G.

8 a.m. at the NICU, we’re starting rounds with the whole surgical team. Wait, no, it’s 8:30, and I’ve been told I need to wait until 9 to pick up my ID card. A typical first day, lots of paperwork to be completed and even more time to kill in-between. I’m finally dropped off at the theatres around 10 a.m. and, luckily, the secretary there has no idea who I am, or that I’m meant to be there. This helps quell my racing mind, already feeling like an outsider coming into a new system. After a couple of phone calls and a little more waiting, my saviours arrive, the surgical registrar and SHO. Now my nerves are really playing up – are they going to quiz me and find out that I’m not an encyclopaedia of paediatric surgery, that I’m just like any other medical student? Luckily, we start with introductions, and although I’m not great at those either, at least I’m a bit more successful. We’re headed to the emergency department as we get acquainted and I already feel welcomed, everyone is so nice, and confused that I would be doing an elective in such a niche area.

We arrive at the beds and there is a patient with RLQ pain, although during the examination, the pain seems quite mild, and it looks like she has no problem pacing and jumping around. Just in case, we request an ultrasound examination and then head to the theatres again.

I apprehensively sit down next to some consultants (I’ve heard some horror stories). The registrar introduces me and we have a pleasant conversation about career pathways in general and paediatric surgery, which gives me some great insight into how to move forward in the surgical world. Then we’re off, the day of operating begins! We’re in CEPOD, the emergency theatre list, so I’ll be seeing a variety of cases. I await those holy words every medical student wants to hear in theatre:

“Do you want to scrub?”

“Of course!”

I run to scrub, excited and slightly nervous as the scrub nurse is watching me, checking in on whether I know what I'm doing. The nerves get to me and I forget to put on a facemask before I start scrubbing… The operation has begun, and I’m here having to start all over again. Finally, having overcome this awkward initial hurdle, I approach the table all scrubbed and gowned. It’s a patient with a small bowel obstruction caused by post-radiotherapy adhesions. The surgery goes smoothly, and I ask my patented question for every surgeon: “Why did you choose …?” I’ve heard a variety of answers to this question over the course of my elective: “It’s the purest anatomy because it isn’t covered by fat as in adults.” Or: “Their pathologies are less self-inflicted than adults, which makes the outcome all the more rewarding.”Or: “I didn’t think I would become a paediatric surgeon, but on one my rotations I had a fantastic mentor and that led me down this path.”

We close, satisfied with the outcome, and I’m told that they’re done for the day and will just be writing up the operation notes now. After changing out of my stylish pink scrubs, I start my walk down St. Michael’s hill knowing that even though my journey may not follow the path I’ve set myself now, that I know one thing for certain. I’m going to be a surgeon.

Highlights of my month to follow next week.

Published: 24. 2. 2020 / Last update: 24. 2. 2020 / Responsible person: Mgr. Petr Andreas, Ph.D.