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5 Facts Surgeons Should Know About Their Coffee Consumption

By Anna Mueller, MS02 Mar 2016

It’s been called “brain juice,” “liquid energy” and even “rocket fuel.”

You might even be holding a nice warm cup of it right now as you’re reading this on your phone.

Coffee. It’s seen as the lifeblood of many professions, but none more so than that of a surgeon.

To prove this point, the British Medical Journal examined the coffee habits of surgeons and found some interesting information. Here are the facts surgeons should know about their coffee consumption.

1. Surgeons Use Coffee as Fatigue Risk Management

A hospital system in Queensland, Australia proposed using coffee to help doctors working long hours overcome fatigue. Included in its Fatigue Risk Management System outline, the hospital recommended doctors consume 400 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of six cups of coffee, during their shifts. The hospital found taking 400 mg of caffeine in tablet form in a single dose was more effective than taking 150 to 300 mg of caffeine every six hours. Naps play a role here, too. Researchers found shorter prophylactic naps together with small repeated doses of caffeine maintained performance better than no naps or single, large doses of the drug.

2. When Surgeons Consume Caffeine

The study found coffee with cream is the caffeinated drink of choice most often consumed in the morning hours, while espresso is most often enjoyed after lunch.

3. Male and Female Surgeons' Coffee Consumption Differs

Men’s and women’s preferences differ on many things, including coffee consumption. Women surgeons were found to drink more cappuccino than men, while men drank more coffee with cream and espresso.

4. Surgeon Seniority Correlates With Higher Consumption

Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found the more senior a surgeon is, the more coffee he or she consumes. A more senior surgeon consumes around 45 more coffees per year than his or her junior counterparts.

5. Medical Specialty Influences How Much is Consumed

Among the medical staff in a hospital, the study found surgeons—specifically orthopedic surgeons—consume the most coffee, followed by radiologists, general surgeons and neurosurgeons.

As a Surgeon, What Can You Do to Maintain Your Energy?

Getting adequate sleep is essential to maintain mental alertness and combat fatigue. Take advantage of opportunities to take short naps or get sleep during a break in your shift. Keeping hydrated and remembering to eat on a regular basis are also helpful. If coffee isn’t your drink of choice, explore alternatives like the right foods or a walk.

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