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“You’re contaminated!”

Caught off guard by the scrub nurse’s accusation, I leapt back from the operating table. As I scurried towards the sink to scrub back in, the surgeon looked up from the procedure to cast me a disappointed glance.

Humbled, I returned to the OR. I crossed my arms against my chest, diligently avoiding any non-sterile equipment as I made my way to the table. “Hold this”, the surgeon commanded as he gestured towards a retractor. I reached out, eager to play a part in the excitement of-

“CONTAMINATED,” barked the scrub nurse.

I froze mid-motion, my arm lingering above the surgical field. “What?” I asked, dumbfounded. How could I possibly have contaminated myself?

“Go rescrub,” the surgeon snipped, handing the retractor to his resident. I was ashamed; twice in a single procedure? Do I get written up for this?

I hip-checked the OR door open for the third time. I wasn’t more than two steps into the room when-

“Contaminated. Again.” The scrub nurse wasn’t even looking at me – I was behind him! “Oh, come on”, I protested half-jokingly, “this is ridiculous!”

“No,” Dr. Reddy said, pausing our OR simulation, “if Todd [playing the scrub nurse] says you’re contaminated, that’s it – you have to rescrub.” I laughed, raised my hands in submission and headed towards the sink.

Dr. Reddy (far left, forefront) walking us through the basics of the OR as Todd AKA The Scrub Nurse (far right, forefront) prepares to denounce my contaminated status to the world.

This operating room drama of ours was part of the SCRUBS surgery interest group’s “Intro to the OR” workshop. In addition to Dr. Reddy’s primer on OR etiquette and manners, we received instruction on how to properly scrub in and gown. As we connect with surgeons for mentorship and shadowing, it is wonderful to have an idea of what will be expected of us when we are allowed to scrub in to our first case. And an added plus: The skin from my elbows to my fingertips has never been cleaner.

In addition to attending the SCRUBS’ workshop this past month, I observed a pulmonary valve replacement, learned how to throw square knots and even presented a new patient in clinic to the attending surgeon I was shadowing (and managed to do so without getting corrected…more than once, ha). To have the flexibility and resources to begin developing an idea of what I want to do beyond medical school as an M1 is an incredible opportunity.

Approaching the end of both the month and our second sequence, I find myself thinking back to orientation in August. Coming into medical school, I had a gut feeling that I might like surgery. Sitting down with surgeons however, I soon realized that I had a very limited understanding of what surgery was about, or more importantly, what it takes to be a surgeon.

I still have a lot to learn.

But I’ve seen the excitement that lights up the surgeon’s face as he recounts a challenging case. I’ve felt the contagious enthusiasm exuded by the surgeon who details the fortitude and determination necessary for success in her field. I’ve witnessed the cool composure of the surgeon whose skillful craft returns a healthy son to an anxious mother.

For better or for worse, I’m hooked.

All gowned up and nowhere to go!