Student Doctors Practice On You While You Sleep (Really!)

Here is an excerpt from my latest article on CNN.com:

Autumn. The air turns cool and crisp, leaves change color, and third-year medical students descend on hospitals to learn to be real doctors… by practicing on real people.

As a plastic surgeon, part of my job includes the art of suturing. Over the past 15 years, I’ve repaired more than 10,000 cuts, incisions, bites, and wounds.

I’ve seen it all — people who’ve been sliced by beer bottles, attacked by wild animals, and even injured by — I want to be delicate here — “personal, intimate devices.” I’ve done so much suturing that sewing up people has become second nature. I can repair a dog bite to the face blindfolded.

But how does a surgeon become an expert at suturing? By practicing on people, some of whom may not suspect it. When I arrived at medical school, I had never stitched up an actual person. The closest I came was beating my older brother in the game Operation. I had a long way to go.

I began by learning how to tie surgical knots. I had never been an Eagle Scout or a sailor so my experience tying knots was limited to looping the laces on my Nikes. I started with a “knot-tying practice board.” The board consisted of shoelaces and a simulated surgical incision made of plastic and rubber bands.

The first time I picked it up I felt as if I had six thumbs on each hand. It took several hours, but at last I got a feel for tying knots. Then I became proficient. And then I became a knot-tying wizard.

Next step, the real deal. Suturing. Many hospitals save their old, unopened sutures so their industrious students can practice. In order to impress the surgeons and get a good grade, I had to dazzle them with my suturing skills. The pressure was on.

For the rest of the article, click here!

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Posted in: Dr. Anthony Youn in the Media

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