Second Year Student Blog: Bailey Bangerter
Thursday, February 1, 2018
In July, I set out for my very first rotation: general surgery in Lumberton, NC. Still exhausted from the endless demands of didactic year, I tried to start clinical year with an open mind and a positive attitude.
On my first day, I arrived early to the clinic to allow extra time to gather myself, put my “big girl” pants on and recite some positive affirmations; “Yes, I CAN do this!” As I waited in the lobby to meet my preceptor, I tried to prepare by going over basic surgical concepts in my head. I realized time was ticking away and it was suddenly 10 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet. My stomach started doing somersaults. I sent a quick email to my preceptor, “Dr. Britt, I am in the outpatient surgical suite, just confirming I’m in the right location.” “Stay there,” he responded. Oh, no! I was supposed to meet him at the hospital across the street. Off to a great start already, Bailey.
The receptionist led me to the back of the clinic to wait for Dr. Britt. As we turned the corner, the first thing I saw as I peered into his office were six deer heads proudly mounted on the wall. I was off on the wrong foot with a gruff surgeon who owned some rifles and knew how to use them. I wondered if, by the end of the month, the taxidermied head of a rare, redheaded, featherbrained PA student would join the collection.
In spite of this bumpy start, I can say without a doubt that I had the best first month of clinical year. If any of my 88 classmates want to contest this, they haven’t met Dr. Britt. My preceptor turned out to be a surgeon of the most patient and forgiving sort: a classy, skillful clinician with a genuine investment in the health and well-being of his patients. Dr. Britt is a Lumberton native who chose to stay in the area because he loves the people of his city; his commitment apparent in the more than 30 years he has devoted to providing surgical services to the community.
Not only is he a model provider, he is an excellent mentor. He guided me through a wide range of surgical issues and procedures in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. Dr. Britt even allowed me to be first assist for multiple operations, an honor I never expected on my first rotation. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment after closing up a large mastectomy incision with a beautiful running subcuticular suture, or the childish awe while witnessing a robot assisted laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Working seamlessly alongside his dependable scrub techs, Dr. Britt docked the robot’s four arms over the patient’s abdomen. He scrubbed out and headed to the console at the corner of the room to operate the robot. As I observed at the other end of the room, my mind wandered. I imagined he had transformed into Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man. Instead of using his powers to throw cars around and wreak havoc, the reformed villain chose to fight biliary dyskinesia with meticulous snipping and clamping.
Halfway through the rotation I meekly requested constructive criticism from my preceptor, bracing myself for a bashing. To my surprise, in his simple and kind way, Dr. Britt replied, “I think you’ve taken to it like a duck to water.”
I enjoyed Dr. Britt’s small-town sayings and his bedside mannerisms. He would kindly close each patient encounter with “I won’t make you come back and see me, but I’m here for you if you need me.” A strong, spunky elderly woman came to the clinic one morning, claiming that no one in Lumberton had worked harder than she. “I’m going to live to 105!” she boasted. Dr. Britt reminded her, “You gotta stay alive to get to 105, that’s the trick. Otherwise, we quit counting.” One day, after performing a colonoscopy, the nurse instructed the patient to stay on their side and try to get some “air” out. The patient shouted, “I like farting!” to which Dr. Britt challenged, “But can you play the Yankee Doodle?”
I’m in my fourth rotation now, and I’m retaining boatloads of practical knowledge. Am I answering every pimping question correctly and coming up with the perfect treatment plan for each patient encounter? Definitely not. Do I anticipate experiencing a rotation or two that makes me feel like a defeated, know-nothing nincompoop? Absolutely. Clinical year certainly has its challenges, but for me personally, it has been the light at the end of a dark and grueling didactic year. Actual contact with patients and working alongside inspiring clinicians has brought me back to life. I now remember why I signed my soul over to the Blue Devil a year ago and I’m so glad I did.
Bailey Bangerter was a second-year PA student with the Duke Physician Assistant Program.
Editor’s note: Duke Physician Assistant Program students blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Physician Assistant Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.