I had anxiety about starting my surgery rotation because of all the stereotypes and myths surrounding surgery culture. I was mainly worried about the physical demands of being in the OR. After all, retracting skin for hours can be pretty exhausting! As someone with flat feet, I get backaches and sore feet from standing for prolonged periods of time. Walking is fine since I’m constantly adjusting my stance, but standing in the same position makes me fidget. So before I started the rotation, I did extensive research on ways to minimize the physical discomforts of being in the OR.
Sneakers vs Danskos
I initially started with these moon shoe-looking New Balance sneakers because they literally feel like walking on pillows. They were my go-to shoes during my medicine rotation whenever I was on-call. But my feet were killing me after day one in the OR. I had heard about Danskos from other med students, but refused to wear them because of their resemblance to Crocs. I bit the bullet when I knew that something needed to change if I was going to survive 8 weeks of surgery.
Danskos can run between $80-120, but they’re a worthy investment that will save your back and feet. They feel uncomfortable at first, since the insole doesn’t have the cushioning seen in comfy sneakers. In fact, they feel very rigid and hard when you step into them. Another jarring discovery is that they posses a very high arch. This can be uncomfortable initially for flat feet, but it actually forces you to stand with better posture. After two days of breaking them in, my backaches and feet pain were significantly reduced. In the OR, I found myself standing straighter, without the need to slouch or lean on one leg.
Fit and style
Size-wise, I’m usually a 6/6.5 wide. I got these in 37 (6.5-7), and found them to be roomy and comfortable. And you can actually run in these — no joke. That can be extremely useful when you’re trying to catch a 5am shuttle to the hospital. These come in different styles and colors, but I just got them in oiled leather black since I wanted them to look as inconspicuous as possible (and it’s easier to wipe bodily fluids off of them). I’ve even seen med students wear these on the wards with professional clothing (and I may or may not have been guilty of that myself).
These are helpful for preventing swelling in your legs from hours of standing. When you stand for prolonged periods of time, gravity pools blood down to the feet. Valves in the leg veins help send blood back up, but when that’s not working, blood can pool in your feet and cause varicose veins to form in older individuals. Compression socks help by squeezing your legs so blood is pumped back up. I actually found these to be super helpful in the OR. It’s important to make sure they’re not too tight, since that might cut off your blood circulation completely. I love these by Dr. Motion (they’re comfy and soft), but these also offer tight compression (albeit thicker and tougher).
If you get cold easily or have poor circulation (like me), then you’ll freeze in the OR. They keep it cold and sterile in there. If I could, I’d wear thermals every day in the OR. However, some hospitals have policies against having any street wear showing through hospital scrubs for sterility purposes. I think v-neck fitted tees like these or these are generally acceptable under scrubs. Some people even wear leggings or long johns on the bottom, but I never felt the need to. Be advised, for those who are scrubbing into cases with radiation exposure (like angiography), where you have to wear a giant lead vest, you will be sweating through your scrubs. So dress accordingly!
Don’t worry about finding your own pair, since OR’s usually only allow hospital scrubs. This is probably why mine look so ill-fitting and large.
Feel free to comment below on what you found useful for surgery! I’d love to hear your thoughts.