Things I Learned on Paediatric Surgery

I rotated through Paediatric Surgery during the time my colleagues had winter break – it was part of the agreement of doing SAS. This meant I was the only student in the ward for two weeks, which also meant that I was the only student to assist in theater… every. single. day.

It was only the second time that I realised that maybe my impressions of surgery had been inaccurate (the first time had been a month earlier, on Head&Neck). Maybe it was because I was getting so much OR-time, without having to fight for a good vantage point. Incidentally, that was also the first time I noticed a surgeon’s hands and what people mean when they talk about “good hands”.

Paediatric Surgery taught me more about surgical techniques, scrubbing up and even anaesthetics. I definitely suggest being the only student on a department’s service at least once.

But the thing that struck me most was the children (we’ve established before that I love children). You would see them shortly before their surgery and they would be miserable because of a pyloric stenosis or intussusception, and you’d see them after the surgery and they would be a little groggy and unhappy. But the very next morning they would be up and about, playing and laughing.

I loved that. Children don’t know about the sick role. They don’t know about taking to bed for a few days after the surgeries. They just want to be healthy and play, and on top of that, their bodies are these incredible little healing machines.

It is unlikely that I will go into Paediatric Surgery one day – for very many reasons – but I will always be in awe of children’s quick healing. Like I needed another reason to adore them.


  1. Sarah says:

    Very nice post. I too am so amazed with kids and their will to be healthy! We adults can surely learn a lot from them.

    Hope you’ll choose pediatrics as your speciality. 🙂

    ~fellow Peds doctor here.

    1. Thank you, nice to meet you! Wow, neuro-peds… impressive 😀 I love peds, so we’ll see what happens. There is still a lot of time to decide for me, luckily.

  2. nisha360 says:

    Kids are nothing if not resilient 🙂 If I were a doctor I would never choose Paediatric Surgery as a specialty precisely because I love kids and hate seeing them suffer.

    1. So true. I don’t think I’d be able to remain objective.

  3. penjedi says:

    Hi from a colleague at the other end of his career-arc.
    Your post reminded me of my time in 1972 when I was a pediatric resident in oncology. It was hard for me to be the bad guy with the needle I had to stick in the little girl’s spine, and even harder to be the guy who had to order another round of chemo for her when it was so clearly more humane to ease her passing.

    1. Ah – I can just imagine. I did a short Ped Onco elective last year and even though I just did the basics – bloods and so on – I got a taste of the difficulty you mention. Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your experience!

      1. penjedi says:

        You are clearly a thoughtful young doctor. You realise that morally, you are a doctor, no longer ‘just a student’. Being a doctor is not like being an accountant, or a teacher, or a lawyer. It’s more like a priesthood. Society sets you to a higher standard, and I think Society is lucky to have you. Good luck!

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