Surgical mental and physical stress busters: Lessons learned from the OR

A surgeon focused on her work
Photo credit: Getty/Jupiterimages

Complex procedures can require surgeons to be on their feet and focused for hours, which is physically and mentally draining. But they’ve learned a few simple tricks that can help sustain those long stretches of effort.

Milan Kinkhabwala, M.D., chief of transplant surgery at Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation at Montefiore Medical Center, told The Wall Street Journal that he and his surgical team use a simple strategy to reduce stress and exhaustion: Music. They have a playlist that can run for as long as 14 hours, he said, and includes songs that everyone on the team enjoys.

Another strategy: Keep comfortable. That means wearing the right shoes. And compression stockings do the trick for Sarah Bellemare, M.D., another transplant surgeon at Montefiore, who says they help her stay upright for as long as 10 hours. Jay Graham, M.D., who also works at Montefiore, took up yoga as a way to combat the physical rigors of long surgeries.

Such long hours in surgery and high expectations can have incredible impacts on a physician, according to the article, and it's not a secret doctors are at high risk for burnout and stress.

Stuart Greenstein, M.D., another transplant surgeon at Montefiore, takes a more spiritual approach to the stresses of the job. Greenstein told the WSJ that his Orthodox Jewish faith help keeps him grounded, and he makes connections with his patients, keeping in touch with them long-term and even attending family events. His colleague, Attasit Chokechanachaisakul, M.D., is a devout Buddhist who combats stress through meditation.