2 spine surgeons on coping when the going gets tough

Written by Anuja Vaidya | July 25, 2019 | Print  | Email

Two spine surgeons shared the most challenging aspects of their day.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: What are the key skills you look for when selecting physician extenders, such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at avaidya@beckershealthcare.com by Wednesday, July 31, 5 p.m. CST.

Note: The following responses were edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is the most challenging part of your day?

Issada Thongtrangan, MD. Orthopedic Spine and Neurosurgeon at Minimally Invasive Spine (Phoenix): Each day at work and in surgery feels like solving a complicated, beautiful puzzle. It's challenging work but when I'm operating, it feels like the whole world melts away because I'm so engrossed in what I'm doing. I don't look at the clock, ever. The gratitude you see in people's eyes when you tell them an operation went well and their loved one wakes up from surgery and will be doing very well — that's not something you can replicate in the typical 9-to-5 job.

However, in a microsecond, things can change for the worse, and it makes you realize that life is so precious and so short. Delivering bad news never gets easier. Telling [patients'] loved ones that the surgery did not go as planned or there was a complication is difficult and very draining. I have to accept that it is part of the job, and I am taking responsibility, owning it, and doing my very best taking care of those complications as if they are my own family.

Brian R. Gantwerker, MD. Founder of the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: By far, the time after the last patient leaves, and I have a mountain of faxes, films and phone calls to return. At that point, I just want to get home, and I can feel the pull of home. I usually have to really hunker down, stay focused and get my work done.

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