That little three letter word often used on Halloween. This year Halloween falls on a Monday, and I will be working in the operating room all day. That kind of scared is no fun for patients and their loved ones. So how do I alleviate some of that fear?

I never tell a patient not to worry because that would be unrealistic. I try to temper their worry by keeping them as well-informed as possible. The greatest fear is that of the unknown. I try to meet with patients at least two times prior to the surgery so that they can become familiar with their surgeon. I encourage them to do their research and reading. Most importantly, I suggest that they keep a running list of all their questions so they won’t forget to ask. Just the act of writing them down takes the question out of their mind and thereby reduces stress.

So, do surgeons ever get scared? Sure. We’re human. When a patient’s imminent or future health is at risk, the adrenaline starts to flow. We think about the patient on an even more personal level. We think about the family in the waiting room. As it turns out, surgeons also fear the unknown. After all, most of what we do is systematic. In these situations, I rely on what I do know, drawing from past experiences in similar situations. Most importantly, I don’t let the fear guide me. Often, the solution is as simple as taking a step back to think.

When it comes to medicine, save the word “boo” for the hiccups.