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Surgery: A Nurse's Perspective

By Linda Trainor
Bariatric Nurse Coordinator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


Most people shop more for a pair of shoes than they do a surgeon. Whether you are in the market for an elective surgery, cardiac surgery or general surgery, it is important that you shop for the right surgeon to obtain the best surgical advice for your particular procedure.

If you're searching for the right surgeon, know that most surgeons in practice encounter many patients considering, undergoing and living with surgery. "To cut or not to cut" is a frequently asked, simple question which many times demands a complex answer. Keep in mind that this is your body and your life, and it is critical that you and your surgeon communicate accurately and that you clearly express all of your expectations on how this surgery will impact your life.

From a nursing perspective, there are many suggestions for you to maximize your knowledge about your upcoming surgery and to minimize potential problems after your surgery. Please consider the following questions and suggestions.

When Choosing a Surgeon

  1. Who is this particular surgeon? What are his/her credentials? Is he/she board certified?
  2. At what hospital does he/she perform surgery? Is it a teaching-affiliated hospital?
  3. Does this surgeon have a website? How many surgeries does he/she perform each year?
  4. Does he/she perform open or minimally invasive surgery?

Prior to Meeting With a Surgeon

  1. Compose a list of your concerns to bring to your initial visit.
  2. Update your list of medications, including vitamins and minerals and allergies to medications, to bring to your clinic visit.
  3. If possible, have your support person accompany you to the clinical visit.
  4. Consider the timing of your surgery with regard to your medical condition, work, family and upcoming vacations or events. Is this the right time?
  5. Contact your insurance company to find out what your specific plan covers for costs.

Meeting With a Surgeon: Issues to Consider

  1. Am I able to understand my surgeon?
  2. Is this a life-altering surgery? If so, how will this surgery impact my life?
  3. Am I given sufficient information regarding my surgery?
  4. Are all my questions answered in language that I can understand?
  5. What are the risks of the surgery?
  6. What are the risks of not having the surgery?
  7. What are my options?
  8. Are there any patients that I can contact to ask about their experience with this surgery?

Preparing for Surgery

  1. When will I need to schedule any pre-operative testing?
  2. When will I meet with an anesthesiologist?
  3. How do I obtain patient information about this specific surgery?
  4. Do you have any information about relaxation techniques to prepare for surgery? Are they available on tapes or CDs?
  5. How do I prepare my home environment for my post-operative needs?
  6. Do I need to increase protein in my diet for better tissue healing?

Post-Operative Experience

  1. How will my pain be managed?
  2. Are there any dietary considerations?
  3. How will my activity level be affected? Will I need physical accommodations for my home?
  4. Will I need home health care? Does my insurance cover home health care?
  5. Will I need to go to a rehabilitation center after I am discharged from the hospital?
  6. When will I be able to return to work?
  7. How many follow-up visits will I need post-operative?
  8. What can I expect for my quality of life?

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2011

Contact Information

Department of Surgery
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
West Campus, Lowry Medical Office Building
110 Francis St.
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-9581

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