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Sorta Random Sunday: The Surgeons Tell Time Better Theory

I may have uncovered a unique skill about surgeons that I never was aware of before. And that is, I believe that surgeons can tell time without assistance better than the average person.

Let me set the scene…

doctors tell time better
Financial panel at the NESPS annual meeting!

Last year, I had to go to Philadelphia to speak as the Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons annual meeting. Selenid came with me to make it a fun weekend away without kids (who we love, but seriously, we needed some time away…I’m sure all parents can relate…)

As an aside, the meeting was awesome. It was the first in-person meeting that I have attended in over a year. And it was great to see a lot of familiar faces back in person.

I got to speak on a financial panel and talk about 12 steps to financial freedom for young physicians.

Anyway, back to how surgeons tell time

So, Selenid and I got the airport with about 45 minutes to spare before boarding.

I had just come from the hospital and hadn’t eaten all day so I was starving. I needed to grab a bite. But Selenid was nervous about us losing track of time and missing the flight.

We ran to a nearby food court, I ordered and we sat down.

Over the next 30 minutes, I told her how much time we had left before boarding (25 minutes, 15 minutes, etc).

She never believed me and would run back to the gate to check. Each time, I was actually right on the money!

And it drove Selenid nuts!

We started talking about why I thought I was good at estimating how much time was passing. And I think the answer is from surgery.

Why surgeons tell time better

Ok, here’s my hypothesis:

In the OR, surgeons need to subconsciously keep track of time during operations to ensure:

  • Best outcomes for the patient
  • Efficiency in their schedule
  • Maintaining block time
  • And so on…

This is something my mentors taught me in residency and has stuck with me since.

So I think thats why surgeons can tell time better than average.

And now my whole theory blows up…

I really thought I was on to something here. But then I just remembered all the times that either myself or a mentor mis-predicted how much time we would need to finish a case.

We always underestimated.

Most OR nurses will tell you that a surgeon’s 20 minutes is really an hour.

So all I need is one OR nurse or anesthesiologist to read this and totally blow up my spot…

What do you think? Are you good at telling time? Is this a worthless skill in medicine? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    2 thoughts on “Sorta Random Sunday: The Surgeons Tell Time Better Theory”

    1. I think it all depends on the surgeon!

      I’ve had surgeons say, “this will take me one hour and twenty eight minutes” and I’ll be darned if they nail it. Others, I can reliably triple their estimate… 🤷🏽‍♂️


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