Why Doctors Fall Asleep While Treating You

Confession: I’ve fallen asleep while operating on patients. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

No, I’ve never passed out and face-planted into a patient’s open belly. Nor have I fallen asleep in the operating room as a plastic surgeon in practice. But as a resident, I performed the dreaded head-bob several times. Here is a typical scenario:

The OR is silent, except for the rhythmic beep from the anesthesia machine. My surgical scrubs feel warm, like a pair of comfy pajamas. I sit, holding two tiny retractors, while the hand surgeon meticulously dissects the patient’s carpal tunnel. It’s a surgery I’ve assisted on dozens of times before.

I blink and try to remember what day it is. It seems like forever ago that I arrived at the hospital. In fact, it’s been more than 32 hours since my shift started. During this past day and a half, I’ve logged more than 15 hours in the OR and exactly zero minutes of sleep.

My eyelids feel heavy, as if being pulled down by an invisible force. I begin shaking my knee up and down, an attempt to keep myself awake.

“Stay still!” the attending surgeon growls.

My knee stops.

Heaviness returns to my eyelids. I’m dancing on the edge of sleep. Five minutes later, I lose the battle. My head briefly bobs down, then back up.

I immediately look around. Has anyone noticed? Apparently not the surgeon.

I look at the scrub technician, sitting to my right. She nods her head at me, knowingly. Then she digs her heel into my foot. Hard.

I suppress a yelp.

I’m awake now.

To read more, please visit the article on CNN.com HERE.

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Posted in: Dr. Anthony Youn in the Media


Responses:

  1. Dear Dr. Youn
    I bought your book for my husband. He is a double board certified plastic surgeon. He loved your book because your book transcends many decades and not much has changed. Life in medical school was so similar to your experience. Sexual angst, no time to date, work, work, study, work.
    Anyway, I thought you might get a kick out of hearing from a doctor who can relate so well.

    Best of luck to you in your career
    JoAnne Winslow (wife)

    Comment by Dr. Robert B. Winslow on June 29, 2012 at 2:25 am

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