Day in the Life of a Medstudent: Surgery Rotation

Friends and family regularly ask me what a typical day in medschool looks like, so I thought some of you guys might enjoy a post like this, too. Plus, personally, “a day in the life”-posts are one of my absolute favorites to read – we all love getting a peek into other people’s lives! 😉

Of course, during the clinical years of medical school, there really is no “typical day” – every day is different from yesterday and you never know quite what to expect when you show up at the hospital in the morning. Sure, there is usually a rough plan for the day – but an acutely sick patient might be admitted to your ward in the blink of an eye and your plan goes out the window.

However, here is a pretty “standard” day for my surgery rotation – this was last Monday. Hope you enjoy!

  • 6:00 – I try to wake up around 6 am every workday morning, to get a little studying done before I leave for school or the hospital. I’ll be perfectly honest here, often I’m wayyy too tired to wake up at 6 and then I’ll sleep in to about 7. But waking up at 6 is always the goal and when I do, I usually use that time to review study notes on whatever it is I’ll be doing that day. Today, I’m skimming through notes on ulcerative colitis, since it’s my first day at the general surgery ward for lower GI surgery.
  • 7:30 – I finish my second (or third…) cup of coffee and head to the hospital, where I get changed into scrubs and say a quick hi to my classmates before we all make our way to our respective wards.
  • 8:00 – The day begins with a meeting for the medical team in general surgery – from surgeons, to junior doctors, residents and interns, and us medical students. Here we get a rapport from the doctor who was on the night shift, about newly admitted patients and anything that might have come up on the ward during the night.
  • 8:20 – After the first meeting, we go down a few floors for a second meeting, this time with a radiologist. Here we go over any new CT scans etc. of our patients.
  • 8:40 – The junior doctor asks my classmate and me to help out in surgery, since the intern has other duties today. Needless to say, we’re thrilled and run down to the O.R.! There, we each assist in two surgeries.
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Waiting for surgery to start.
  • 10:15 – The first surgery goes smoothly – it’s a laparoscopic one and I get to hold the camera. It’s a pretty straight-forward job and most of the medical students here in Iceland get the chance to do so at some point, but nevertheless I feel pretty good about myself afterwards, being the surgeon’s eyes inside the patient during surgery! I grab a quick cup of coffee and head back to O.R.
  • 11:40 – Another surgery later, it’s time for lunch! I’m trying to make healthy choices, so I go for a salad and then take a photo of it for the sake of this blog post… definitely got some strange looks from doctors sitting at the table next to me, but heck, so be it! 😛
  • 12:40 – I have a little over an hour to kill before we have study-clinics (see below), so I grab a cup of coffee and go up to the students’ lounge, where I use the time to read up on diseases of the gallbladder (I try to make sure I study whatever it is I’ve just seen or done at the hospital – that way, it sticks a little better into my brain!). I also get in some Instagram-time – a vital thing to my mental health! 😉
  • 14:00 – From 14 to 16, we have two study-clinics, an hour each. One medical student is in charge of each clinic. That student has to interview and examine one patient, and then all of us go through the case together, with the help of a surgeon on the ward. Today, we have one urology case and one from general surgery.
  • 16:00 – The workday is done! About once a week, I have to stay for an on-call at the hospital, until 22 o’clock. But not today, so I change back into normal-people-clothes and head to the gym. I’m starting the Bikini Body Guide for the first time this week and oh boy – it’s a lot harder than it looks! (seriously though – leg day was two days ago and I still almost can’t walk properly.)
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Hospital cafeteria food – nothing fancy but keeps you alive. Sort of.
  • 18:00 – I go home and contemplate making dinner… but end up taking a nap instead. #storyofmylife
  • 20:00 – Evenings are when I play catch-up for reading up on the day’s cases. I also try to get in some preparing for tomorrow, if I know what’s coming up on my schedule. I start a chapter on lower GI diseases, making notes and sometimes flashcards as I go.
  • 22:30 – My boyfriend picks me up and we go for a quick stroll around the neighborhood. We’re both quite busy, so this is often how we make time to see each other. It’s nice to get a breath of fresh air and some quiet time by ourselves to just talk about our days.
  • 23:30 – I get back to my desk, have a small evening snack (and sometimes a cup of coffee if I still have a long to-do list ahead of me) and finish preparing for tomorrow. If I have any work to do for the newspaper which I freelance for, this is when I work on getting those articles done. I also check my e-mails, get a little writing done for the next blog post, and check Instagram. Finally, I set aside what I want to read the following morning, so I can get straight to reading when I wake up and don’t have to think about what to study.
  • 1:30 – I get to bed, usually some time between 1 and 2 am but sometimes later, unfortunately.
  • 6:00 – …and the cycle begins again!


Hope you enjoyed this – and thanks for reading, as always!

xox, Lady Reykjavik.


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