I hope everyone is staying safe during these difficult times!
Recently, I had the privilege of shadowing residents at an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Program – it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Meeting the residents and seeing how much they do for their patients was truly a humbling experience. I just wanted to make a post about what a typical day in the life was for a resident and some of the awesome procedures I saw along the way.
5:30 AM – Wake up and get ready – had to make sure I brought comfortable shoes as I would be on my feet all day. Caffeinated myself as well.
6:45 AM – Arrive at hospital
7 AM – Morning Rounds – Morning rounds are when all residents gather in a conference room to discuss the previous night and the day’s operating room cases. At morning rounds, the residents who were on-call (meaning that they stayed at the hospital overnight to treat emergencies) would report on what came into the hospital last night. Usually, it was people with large cuts on their face from accidents (typically a motor vehicle accident). The residents who were on-call would also check on people who had surgery the previous day to make sure that they had no issues – this was usually done at 6 AM prior to the morning rounds meeting. The game-plan for the day was then discussed, and the residents would be assigned to their designated operations. At around 7:30, morning rounds would wrap up.
7:45/8 – 8:30 – Breakfast – Luckily, the hospital that I was at had a great cafeteria where the residents would eat their meals. I would, once again, caffeinate myself even more.
8:30 – 1:30/2PM – Surgery, Surgery, Surgery – All residents would go to their designated location. Some of the residents would go to the operating rooms, where all the major surgeries would take place. Other residents would go to the dental or out-patient clinics to perform simple dental procedures (like extracting teeth and placing dental implants – you do not need an operating room for this).
2-2:45PM – Lunch – Back to the cafeteria we’d go for more food and caffeine.
3-6PM – More Surgery – Again, residents would go where needed. I would jump between residents depending on the operating room procedures.
6-7PM – Evening Rounds – At evening rounds, all the residents would once again meet. They discussed who’s turn it was to be on-call for this night and which patients they needed to go check in on. They also vaguely discussed the procedures the next day and who will be going where.
7-10PM – Relax – Since I am not a resident, I had the luxury of relaxing. The residents, though, typically had to go home and read textbooks. In order to be a successful resident, you need to read up on procedures and diseases/pathology prior to doing these in person. Programs will provide you with the necessary tools to be a successful surgeon, but it is up to you to truly capitalize on the opportunity. Most residents would read up on the procedures they would be performing the next day to ensure that they knew what exactly to do.
Residency training is exhausting and rigorous, but it truly seems to be necessary in order to make you a successful surgeon. I had the pleasure of being on-call with another resident to experience this, and it did not disappoint.
The advice I received prior to taking call was “Get to bed by 9PM, because from 1AM-6AM, you usually are extremely busy treating emergencies.” I took this to heart, and he was not wrong. I slept in the on-call room from 9pm – 11pm. The resident I was with was then paged because of a motor vehicle accident. I woke up, put my scrubs on, and followed the resident to the emergency area. Someone who was involved in a motor vehicle accident came in with lacerations and cuts on their face. The resident stitched them up accordingly and communicated with other specialists, like neurologists and ophthalmologists, to see if they had a diagnosis of a head injury or any other injuries. Once everything was finished, there was another incidence that the resident had to attend to. After all of this, the time was 3AM – we luckily got to go catch some shut eye before morning rounds. The resident set their alarm for 6AM because, as I mentioned earlier, they had to go check in on patients who had surgery the previous day to see how they were healing. At the end of it all, we luckily got a total of 5 hours of sleep. We then had to stay the full day at the hospital the next day and managed to get home at 7pm – the exhaustion hit at once when I got back to my bed.
Taking call was a great experience to see what it was like to really be a resident. I managed to see some unbelievable surgeries as well while at the hospital this week.
I saw a lot of jaw reconstruction while in the operating room. Surgery like this is done if the patient has an undergrown or overgrown maxilla (upper jaw) or mandible (lower jaw). I have attached photos for clarifications on how this is done. Surgery like this is life changing, and you can really see the difference once all adjustments have been made.
Other surgeries I managed to see were removal of large cysts from jaws, a trauma case where someone fell and fractured their jaw, and nerve repairs.
The most memorable part of the week, though, happened Wednesday morning. There was word going around that on Tuesday night, a cleft lip/palate baby was born at the hospital. I had the privilege of going up with the residents as they went to consult the parents. Walking into the room, I saw worried parents with their newborn baby. Seeing the residents interact with the parents really moved me. They made sure that the parents knew that their child was in great hands and that they would be able to fix the cleft. Though I didn’t get to see the actual surgery, the conversation was an incredible experience.
If you have a passion for truly helping people and changing their lives, then Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is the profession for you. The hours and training might be brutal, but the end-result makes it completely worth it. Even though I am a third year dental student, I cannot wait to (hopefully) enter this career. We will find out if this happens in 1.5 years from now!
Thanks for reading!
(sorry for any typos)