This is how we surgery. With coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Sorry about the coffee breath. I won’t be offended if you hand me a piece of gum…

We surgery with coffee. And each other.

Surgery is a team sport. And, as I remind the residents on occasion, sometimes it’s a contact sport. We all pile in the trauma bay and DESCEND on the patient! We examine every inch of the patient. Place lines and tubes and radiate them top to bottom. Injuries…you will NOT hide from us! In the OR, we “belly up to the bar”, standing much closer to each other than conventionally acceptable outside of the OR, and we push and shove and pull and otherwise play a game of Twister, to get the job done for the patient.

As a med student, I stood dumb founded in the OR one night as I counted the people involved in the care of  just one patient. The guy in the control room on the roof of the hospital who was watching the weather and directing medical helicopter traffic; the dozen or so nurses, residents, surgeons, and techs who met the patient in the trauma bay; the phlebotomist, the CT tech, the respiratory therapist, and the pharmacist; the OR staff, the anesthesiologist, the blood bank runner; and the humble and unassuming janitor who cleaned up the giant mess we made along the way. Everyone drops everything to save a life. The sandwich is left half eaten, the email left read but not replied to; the phone call ended short, the bathroom break delayed; and even the coffee, the precious coffee, gets left behind to get cold.

It doesn’t get old. But it does get tiring. All hours of the day and night. Several patients at a time. It does wear on you. It makes you jumpy, irritable, anxious. It makes you guarded and cautious, to see injury and death, every day. It makes you want to avoid and forget the tough cases that didn’t turn out the way you hoped. It affects you. It exhausts you. It hurts, actually.

And that’s why we need coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

And each other.

Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.