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First: stay calm!


How to prevent a surgical disaster
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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Every surgeon has the experience, some surgeons more than others. Maybe it's luck, it could possibly be skill, but in which, all of a sudden, unexpectedly, some imminent disaster doesn't loom, but appears, and it's usually when a large blood vessel is injured, and there's a cascade of blood all over the place.

It's terrifying, but what gets you out of it is several things. One is your experience that you've been in bad situations before, very bad situations before. Maybe they weren't terrifying, but they were very, very, very difficult. And you've gotten out of it. And I always think of all my years of training. You know, everything, all this stuff just comes up in your mind. All your years of training and how good one is technically. But perhaps the most important, and at the least, they second most important thing that goes through your head is you've got to keep everybody calm; if you don't keep everybody calm… this is going to be truly a disaster that's going to end up in the worst possible way.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: surgeon, experience, training

Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 04 November 2011