So last night, I was waiting to start a section and the anesthesiologist and I were in the OR waiting for the patient to arrive. We both noted it was July 1st...and were glad that we were in rural fly-over country hospital instead of Mecca. I was the least experienced person in the room, having graduated from residency 5 years ago.
We were both musing about intern year. He's significantly older than me, but the themes were similar. Sheer and utter fear that first day. The thrill of being able to write orders. Feeling overwhelmed. The weirdness of signed the MD after our names (I don't do that anymore...my signature has degenerated into my initials).
He told stories of his attending snoring during a case his first month.
I talked about the first time I held a scalpel...July 2nd, 2002. I was the intern on the gyn team and was scrubbed in for an abdominal hysterectomy. The scrub nurse was told to give me the scalpel and I was told to make the skin incision and then put the scalpel down on the Mayo.
My first reaction was "ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS?!?!?!?!?! I could HURT someone with that thing!!!!!!" But I didn't say anything and suavely took the scalpel (all the while trying not to shake) and placed it on the line the attending had drawn. Took a deep breath and cut.
Evidently not even remotely hard enough. I didn't even get into the dermis! The attending looked at me and said "You CAN cut more than one cell layer at a time." And he put his hand over mine on the scalpel and we did it again, this time exposing the yellow balls of fat lying just under the skin.
And now...I still respect the scalpel, but it feels natural. It's a part of my life. As are the Mayo scissors, the hemostats, the pick-ups. I can use any of them with either hand. I like the ritual of slapping them into my hands, ready to use. The dance of gowning and gloving is almost as formal as a waltz with people moving and presenting parts at precise times.