We have an average attention span of 20 minutes. But guess what? As you might already know, surgeons are not like the rest of adults.
Surgeons have long shifts and work schedules, typically as long as 50–60 hours. They also prepare to rush towards accidents and on-call operations, even late at night. But surgeons also regularly endure lengthy procedures.
During complicated major operations, surgeons can stand and think critically for several hours. With the lives of their patients on their hands, surgeons stand up and use their skills and tools for multiple hours.
For example, brain and spine surgeries can last for at least six hours. A surgeon may operate for over fifteen hours during a craniotomy (which opens the skull to remove a tumor or malignant brain tissue).
Likewise, liver transplants can be as long as ten hours.
Even what may seem like a relatively straightforward surgery may be much lengthier. Repairing a damaged aorta (the largest artery in the human body) can exceed twenty hours.
But some surgeries can be longer than a day. Separating conjoined twins, for example, may take 50 hours, more than two days!
You might be wondering, how do surgeons operate for so long? How can they endure such a long time with stress, body discomfort, and alertness?
In this article, you will find out!
Planning for the surgery
Before the operation starts, the surgical team anticipates how many hours the surgery will take. They prepare a plan that will guide them throughout the operation.
This way, they can agree on when to take breaks and delegate tasks to one another, make their workload easier for the team. Having such a plan also gives them confidence and a morale boost.
Besides, many surgeons are already used to conducting lengthy operations. Since their medical studies and residency, surgeons have already practiced standing and performing their roles in surgeries for long hours.
Surgeons build up their stamina for the lengthy operations they will lead. They sleep as much as they can or drink coffee if they did not have that luxury.
Surgeons also consume diets that will reinforce their energy and alertness.
Obeying ergonomic and safety policies
Keeping themselves comfortable during surgeries helps relieve them from tiredness. Surgeons wear cozy surgical footwear and loupes attached to their eyewear to focus their vision.
Surgeons also avoid distractions like checking their smartphones during the operation.
Having fun during routine operations
When the surgical team conducts routine or typical surgical operations, they can loosen up while working.
As long as they can guarantee their maximum performance, the operating room personnel may play music and chat during the procedure.
Interacting with one another helps the surgeons and the personnel relax while conducting surgery.
However, they must be mindful of the hospital policies, legal issues, or staff litigation before “having fun” in the operating room.
Working in teams and subgroups
Surgeons perform operations in teams, especially during complicated and lengthy procedures. In the operating room, surgical assistants and nurses contribute to the surgery.
For example, to separate a conjoined twin in Utah, the surgical team divided the operation into different stages and subtasks based on their specialization.
They split the tasks regarding the incisions (taken over by general surgeons), the skeleton (led by the orthopedic surgeons), the blood vessels (done by the vascular surgeons), and the consequent plastic surgery.
The teams will enter the room if their role comes next in the following stage. This strategy helps surgeons to take breaks every five hours.
If surgeries are divided into multiple groups and subtasks, how can the operation stay coherent and safe?
The lead surgeons supervise and participate in the surgery as well. They also stay in the operating room as much as possible to fulfill their responsibility as lead surgeons.
Aside from the surgeons, the anesthesiologists and nurses have work shifts. Once their schedule is over, another batch can take over to assist the surgeons.
Resting after some hours
If possible, the surgeons may also rest, drink, and eat snacks every five to seven hours. They also take this opportunity to take restroom breaks.
Given the tremendous stress and strain in the operating room, surgeons also need to stay energized and hydrated. After all, if they are unprepared, surgeons can faint out of fatigue as well.
While they take a break for a short time, surgeons can still see the procedure in their resting area through a live feed on television. This way, they will know the status of the surgery and easily participate once more.
They can also order food at the hospital cafeteria as long as they return as quickly as possible. Eating snacks and meals give them the nutrients and the fuel they need to continue for more hours during the surgery.
After all, if they will overexert and cripple themselves, the patient will suffer, and the operation will fail.
Before returning to the operating room, surgeons who went out must perform the strict hygienic measures once more.
Treating their colleagues with care and respect
The operating room is a stressful place, so surgeons and their fellow personnel do their best to help uplift and relieve one another. Screaming and scolding will not contribute to themselves or the surgery.
Since they must fulfill their roles with harmony and excellence, they must work in an environment filled with respect and care.
Staying focused and loving their surgical career
During lengthy and critical procedures, surgeons think about what is at stake: the patients’ lives. Because of this, they focus intently and stay away from mistakes.
Because of their keen attention during surgeries, they are unaware of how much time had already passed.
Most of all, surgeons studied for decades to perform operations. Most of them love surgery as their passion and purpose in life. This mindset helps surgeons stay motivated and excited even as hours had already flown.
Other strategies that surgeons may perform
Surgeons who are sensitive to dehydration may be given intravenous liquids. This way, both the surgeons and the patients will not suffer from any risk of delay. However, this is rare.