Minor Surgery

This week I'll focus a bit on some of the techniques we are learning in our remaining clinical science classes, which coincide with our Internships. 

One of our classes is "Minor Surgery" taught by Muhammad Ali Khan, MD, who has extensive experience with surgical techniques prior to his entering academia. Dr. Khan also teaches our basic science pathology courses for all professional programs. 

Within the therapeutic order of naturopathic medicine, minor surgery is the most invasive and least used therapy in our toolkits. Unless we are local doctors in a remote area, in a licensed state with a scope of practice that includes minor surgery, we typically would refer these procedures to a specialist. 

The class covers minor surgery concepts and procedures from start to finish. We begin the trimester with the types of minor surgeries performed by primary care doctors along with proper sterilization procedures for patient, personnel and operating theatre. Once these concepts have been covered, we learn about each of the instruments used in minor surgery, their proper handling, and techniques unique to each instrument. 

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Dr. Khan demonstrates the proper technique for removing a hangnail to the class.
No gloves or sterilization is needed as simulated limbs are used. I'm behind the camera.

Now that we have the basics down, we learn basic suturing on practice dummies in the lab. We learn how to perform interrupted, continuous and vertical mattress sutures and the circumstances that are appropriate for each of these types of sutures. The techniques we learn include checks to ensure that infection is not trapped beneath the suture and the patient is able to heal as quickly as possible. 

Once the suture is complete, we learn the typical healing times for each type of suture and its location on the body, how to remove the sutures and how to keep scarring to a minimum.  

Suturing is a large part of the "Minor Surgery" class and we spend about half of our time for the class in lab, practicing sutures for various wounds. After Dr. Khan has given us a thorough run-through himself, we each are given the opportunity to practice our skills on dummies with multiple simulated injuries. Nothing can replace repetitive practice and muscle memory to help develop a strong skillset and confidence for future patients. 

While not all states license naturopathic doctors for minor surgery, this is a skill that is needed by all primary care doctors, especially in remote locales where no emergency care exists and the urgent care center is the local doctor's office. Minor cuts, burns, hangnails, cysts, and countless other superficial procedures can be handled by a properly trained primary care doctor.  

NUHS is taking into account the big picture of naturopathic care by including appropriate training for naturopathic medical providers regardless of the state in which we settle and start or join a practice. We are fortunate as students to have a doctor on staff with Dr. Khan's experience and expertise to give us the basics on proper minor surgery techniques. I feel that his passion for sharing his knowledge will help us provide better care for our patients in the years to come!