Managing Stress During Surgery

dr ferhan ahmed Jul 21, 2021

It's simple… it's all in the PREPARATION.

Stress during surgical procedures is not an uncommon feeling and I feel it can be avoided/minimised by focusing on 4 specific areas. These areas are all inter-connected and can not be addressed in isolation to be effective.

4 key areas of focus to minimise surgical stress:

1 Procedure
2 Patient
3 Team
4 Environment

Procedure preparation relies on the surgeon having an appropriate knowledge level and training. The knowledge level must include awareness of complications and their management along with the surgical ability to execute the procedure. It should involve mental rehearsal and visualisation of the surgical procedure in advance of the surgery date. As the surgeon we must demonstrate leadership as the team will usually mirror our demeanour and reactions.

Patient preparation begins with building rapport and trust. This starts from the very first encounter and is followed by your patient understanding and accepting the rationale for the treatment proposed. This then naturally follows on to the patient developing confidence in the surgeon. These are important foundations to any successful surgeon patient relationship.

Surgical procedures are not carried out/executed successfully on an individual basis. They involve a team approach. Team members include nursing staff as well as administrative staff including front desk and treatment coordinators. The team directly involved with surgery need to be aware of the planned surgical procedure and adequate knowledge to pre-empt the surgical steps. Pre treatment briefs prior to surgery act as an invaluable preparation aid. On these debriefs the team familiarise themselves with the patient and the planned procedure and any potential concerns. I find writing this up on the wall in the surgery acts as a great aid. Adequate team preparation aids in the efficiency of completing surgical procedures. It allows for the surgeon to stay in a state of flow to complete procedures effectively.

Environment preparation relates to having order and calm around you. Order in the correct set up of instruments. Having equipment available and too hand for the procedure and also to manage any potential complications. Space and ordered set up allows and aids clear thinking. I advocate following the silent cockpit protocol which I have written about in a previous blog post.

As the surgeon and leader it is our responsibility to spear head preparation and focus on the 4 key areas mentioned. Bringing them together we will reduce stress and anxiety when completing surgery making the process fun for all involved.