Shadowing an OB/GYN

Heather Kregel, sophomore biology and English major and pre-medical student:

"This past semester, I shadowed an OB/GYN at a local hospital. I had not shadowed a doctor who had an office in a hospital yet, and I must say that this was my favorite shadowing experience yet. I loved the way he saw patients regularly throughout the day, but could easily rush to labor and delivery when being called. Being at the hospital, just the atmosphere of it, reminded me of why I want to be a doctor. I enjoyed it so much more than an office. The doctor told me he completely shared these sentiments and had always felt that the hospital was where the excitement was.

"Over the course of the semester, I spent a total of about twenty hours following this doctor. I seemed to be very fortunate in that several of the times I went, he had an unexpected procedure to perform. There were three specific ones that were especially interesting. The first time, I went in early on a Friday (his surgery mornings) to see a laparoscopy. This was my first time to ‘scrub up’ and enter an operating room, and I was overwhelmingly excited about every aspect of it. There was nearly no blood with the procedure, which involved inserting a scope to see why the woman was having pain around her uterus. The doctor inserted the scope through her navel and, after using a metal rod to lift the intestine from in front of it, could see the uterus. We found a single spot of endometriosis, a condition caused by blood that leaks when the uterus sheds its lining each month. The doctor cauterized the single dark spot and was done, making it a relatively quick procedure. He did move the scope around while inserted to allow me to see more of the body cavity, including the stomach and the intestines. We saw it all on a screen upon which the camera image from the scope was projected. 

"The second procedure was a tubal ligation: ‘tying tubes’ so that the woman could no longer have kids. The woman on whom I saw the procedure had delivered her baby that morning. This surgery was slightly more invasive than merely inserting a scope. The doctor had done it hundreds of times though, and it was routine to him. I love that he talks, especially when telling stories, while in the operating room. He pulled the tube up, clamped it, and cut off the end. He said that one of the most challenging things about that particular procedure is checking, double-checking, and triple-checking to make sure that you are cutting Fallopian tube and not intestine. He then stitched her up and she was moved to recovery.

"The third (and most exciting!) procedure I saw was a Caesarean section: the surgical removal of a baby after incisions through the mother’s abdomen and uterus. It was a bloody procedure: because it must be done quickly, there is not time to tie off the blood vessels that would be tied off in other surgeries to prevent blood loss. This can cause problems with women who have trouble with their blood clotting, because it can result in an extremely large, dangerous loss of blood. When the two doctors who were operating made the first incision, they grabbed the tissues and started pulling them apart, forcefully! I was amazed at how strong the tissues were: one doctor on one side and on the other pulling, and the hole made by the incision honestly did not open up much. It seemed like they cut and cut, and then they were pulling the uterus out of the body and cutting it barely open. When it was open, they told the woman (who was still awake but shielded from viewing what they were doing) to push, and then there was a baby! He was crying and the dad was craning his neck to see, and I wanted to cry because it was so amazing! They then sewed the uterus closed and pushed it back inside the body cavity and began sewing up the rest of the incision, which was a fairly detailed process. The birth was incredible intriguing to me, in every way. To know that the doctor had just assisted this baby's coming into the world was amazing to me. 

"This doctor taught me so much this semester. He saw patients regularly in his office, doing everything from pap smears (which are not really that disgusting if you look at it as a medical procedure) to sonograms. Sonograms were always so touching, often with the mom tearing up, especially when able to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. I really enjoyed talking with him about medical school and things that had happened previously in his practice. I do not think, knowing what I know now, that I could be a doctor who did not perform surgery of some type. It was the most amazing, awe-inspiring experience I had ever had."

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