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Operating Room

As I step carefully into the sterile field
past the rows of scalpels, forceps and clamps,
I sense a gentle fluttering in my chest. 
Perhaps I feel nervous of a clumsy misstep
even after many hours, days, in the operating room,
exposing the innocence of a medical student. 

Perhaps I feel humbled next to the surgeon
wearing the same caps, masks and gowns
seamlessly alike from head to foot, or so I hope.
But beneath the surface lies three decades of expertise
juxtaposing my mere three years of training,
their wisdom silently encircling my uncertainties. 

Or perhaps I feel pleased to meet John again,
recalling his warm smile when I explained the surgery
and his calm voice saying, thank you, doctor.
His thin frame now hides behind the drapes,
except for his bare abdomen with a dark pink stoma
and hope for new life beaming under overhead lights.  

The surgeon calls for a timeout with folded hands
with John’s heart rate beeping in the background.
There and then, I pause my train of thought,
tucking it away for the next few hours
and my drifting gaze focuses on his abdomen
rising ever so subtly under the surgeon’s first incision.

Author’s note: Patient’s name and personal details have been changed to preserve their privacy.

Image credit: Operating Room – Not Set Up (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by BC Gov Photos

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Boyoung Ahn (5 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Bo is a fourth year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH class of 2024. In 2018, Bo graduated from Dartmouth with a Bachelor's degree in psychology, then pursued a Master's in global health at UCSF. Bo enjoys running, hiking, and volunteering in her free time. Bo would like to pursue a career in internal medicine and geriatrics.