Local Surgeons Enjoy Working from Home in a Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 brought changes to the American way of working that have altered forever the relationship between many workers and their physical workplaces. Today, more and more U.S. workers are no longer willing to commute to work and back five days a week, now that COVID-era technology has proven that many jobs can be done remotely from home.
While office workers are the most obvious group to have pushed back against five-day-a-week commuting, there is yet another, less-visible profession that has been embracing the new technology that allows at-home work to flourish: surgeons.
Right here in the Delaware Valley, an all-but-invisible revolution has been taking place. Some of the area’s top surgeons have been able to practice their profession while not having to leave their homes.
One of the pioneers of this new medical technology is Dr. Irwin Goldfarbowitz. Dr. Goldfarbowitz, a noted prostate surgeon who lives in Chester County and works at one of Philadelphia’s top teaching hospitals, has fully embraced the remote surgery concept.
“Before COVID, I used to spend hours stuck in traffic, just trying to make it into the city in time to scrub up for my 6 AM surgery. By the time I pulled my car into my reserved spot in the parking garage, I was already exhausted. Things are so much better now since COVID.”
These days, Goldfarbowitz gets to sleep in an extra hour, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and a bagel while watching the Today Show in his bright, sunlit kitchen in suburban Malvern, and then saunter down the hall to his home office to begin his workday.
“Robotic surgery has been a real game-changer for us,” he says. “I can work that robot right from my laptop. I go zip-zip-zip with the mouse, and then the nurses close it all up. And all without having to sit in traffic or pay four bucks a gallon for gas. It’s truly awesome!”
He pointed out that allowing surgeons to work remotely has also created some great new opportunities for patients, including the introduction of Sunday surgical hours.
“Yeah, our I.T. department fixed me up with double monitors, so now I can view the surgery on one screen and watch the Eagles game on the other. I almost severed a patient’s penis when [quarterback] Jalen Hurts threw that second interception against the Bears last season, but fortunately, I caught myself.”
Goldfarbowitz isn’t the only one who loves being able to do surgery from the comfort of this home.
Gynecologic surgeon Dr. Makenzie McGlurkin, who lives in Upper Bucks County and works for a Delaware County hospital system, has also fully embraced the new work-from-home technology.
“For a working mom like me, it’s been a godsend.”
McGlurkin says she used to spend as much as an hour and a half a day in stop-and-go traffic in each direction on the Blue Route (Route 476), commuting from her home in Quakertown to her hospitals in Delaware County. Now, she takes a leisurely stroll every morning down to her tastefully-finished basement, where an entire corner of the room is set up with a state-of-the-art computer system and an extra-large, high-definition monitor.
“I can’t tell you what a joy it has been to be able to do these surgeries from the privacy of my own home. And being able to be here all day with my three small children has been truly a gift. No more having to drag two comatose toddlers and a screaming baby to the daycare every morning at five a.m.”
McGlurkin admits that performing work-from-home surgery is not without its challenges. She cites distractions from her small children as one of the main ones.
“One morning, I was performing a hysterectomy when little Taylor started smearing peanut butter all over the dog’s face. I turned around and screamed at her and almost took out somebody’s bladder.”
Fortunately for that patient (and McGlurkin’s malpractice insurance company), the computer robotics engineers who designed the remote surgical system she uses built in a special “kill switch” that nurses in the O.R. can hit when something like this happens. When activated, it freezes the robot’s scalpel in place until the surgeon has recovered from any distractions.
One bone of contention in this new world of remote surgery is that most of the area’s hospitals still require nurses to show up for work in person. A lot of nurses were unhappy when they first found out that they actually had to show up for work, while the doctors they work with don’t.
But for every problem, there is a creative solution.
Said one Montgomery County hospital administrator, “We solved that problem. We gave them an unlimited bar tab at Mulvaney’s Irish Pub around the corner. Nurses love to party, so they’ve reacted very positively to this. We only ask them to limit their drinking to after they’ve completed their surgeries for the day, not before.”
Barry Rabin and MONTCO Today wish you a Happy April Fools’ Day! Barry welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Barry is an attorney, writer, and occasional comedic music performer based in Chester County. He welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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