Imagine for a moment a job where you are treated like a servant, you make less money than fast food workers, you get yelled at constantly for things that aren't your fault, you often work 120 hours a week (there are only 168 total), no one ever says "thank you", and this servitude is guaranteed to last for at least five years. Oh, and at any given moment the safety of 25 or 30 people's lives rests squarely on your shoulders. I'm sure you're just jumping out of your seat wondering how you can apply for this wonderful job, right? Sound like something you'd be interested in? Great! Then train to become a surgeon.
Unfortunately, none of that is exaggerated. Depending on where you train and what field you want to enter (cardiac, plastics, orthopaedics, urology, general, trauma, etc), surgical training takes between 5 and 8 years after 4 years of medical school. To say it's a pressure cooker is an understatement - here was a typical day during my training.
4:30AM - Arrive at work, start pre-rounding, gathering vital signs
6:00AM - Make rounds with the team
7:00AM - Make rounds with the senior surgeon/consultant/attending
7:30AM - Surgery starts
4:00PM - Make afternoon rounds
10:00PM - Go home
And during all this time, I had to somehow create time to study. In all specialties across medicine there are two major components to the training - A) Learn how to be a doctor and take care of patients, and B) Learn about all the stuff that can possibly go wrong with every part of the body. In surgery, however, there is a very unique third component - C) Learn how to fix all that stuff. The only way to learn how to operate is to see it and then do it. But we also have to learn why we are doing the surgery, when to operate, and even more importantly when not to operate. We then have to learn what to do when there is a complication with surgery. If something goes wrong, it has to be fixed, and there are so many things that can go wrong it will make your head spin. (Head spinning is not one of the complications I'm talking about.)
In addition to working during the day, there's also the dreaded CALL. This means staying in the hospital overnight, responding to phone calls in the middle of the night from frantic nurses about fevers, bleeding, patients falling out of bed, hiccups (seriously), and anything else that pops into their heads. It also means seeing patients in the emergency room, assisting with surgery, and trying to steal a minute or two of sleep while praying that your pager doesn't go off again.
My first year of training was by far the worst, but it only got marginally better after that. The hours got a tiny bit better, perhaps only 100-110 hours a week, but the responsibility was much greater as the training progressed. I had gotten married a few weeks before I started my training, and this whole process strained my marriage to its very limit. Statistics show that there is a 33% divorce rate among surgeons, and some training programs boast a 100% divorce rate, something they seem proud of as if they're saying, "Our trainees work so hard, there is NO time left for spouses!"
I somehow managed to get through my five years of training, and best thing to come out of those seemingly-endless years of torture was my beautiful daughter who was born midway through my fourth year. The best advice I can give anyone going through this process (or even considering it) is to put family first. A good training is very important, but nothing is more important than family.