Nudity is a funny thing that seems to be a uniquely American trigger point. We giggle and point at nudity because as kids we never got a proper sex education due to sometimes weird and confusing ideology. As adults, we shame women who enjoy nudity but laugh hysterically at male nudity. Our culture has no clear, equal policy or acceptance when it comes to nudity of any gender. Now, add surgery to nudity and you have yourself an incredibly awkward and weird feeling right before being put under thanks to this uniquely American trigger point.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m currently up to 10 surgeries and counting. I’ve had everything from simple scopes to a total hip replacement. Surgery, no matter how routine or serious, has never been something I’ve been totally afraid of. In my head, surgery is very much an opportunity to feel better––especially since I have a long history of waiting until I’m in constant tears, basically, before going under the knife. I don’t enjoy it by any means; surgery is like taking a medication or going to physical therapy. It’s another opportunity to lower my pain and raise my quality of life.

Despite this positive outlook towards surgery, there have been several times that I have experienced the most awkward, surreal feeling I’ve ever had right before I’ve been put under. As you might have guessed, this awkward, surreal feeling has to do with nudity.

For both of my right and left hip and my neck operations, my surgeon wanted me to lay completely naked on the operating table. For obvious reasons, I don’t want my patient gown to get into the wound or obstruct the surgeons view while operating. I understand I’m no Greek god but I don’t think of myself as a complete prude either. This is just a part of surgery that thanks to my health, the ratio of medical personal to girlfriends that have seen me naked will probably be forever skewed to the medical side.

Without fail, there has been as short as a few minutes to upwards of 10 minutes where I was laying on the operating table completely naked while the surgical staff went about their business. Absolutely no one is paying attention to naked Alan. On the one hand this is a good thing because being naked in a room full of clothed people is something sitcoms are made of. However, there is always a part of me that thinks, hey I’m naked at least try and sneak a peak at the good stuff. Lets face facts; there is something kind of reassuring to our self-confidence catching someone checking us out.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think less off the surgical staff or surgeon for putting me into this awkward situation right before being put under. In fact, I’m guessing no patient has ever brought this up before. Since nudity is such a taboo subject coupled with the weirdness of having that many drugs running through your system at once, it is easy to forget this one small, yet surreal experience of surgery. I fully believe this is a hole in the operating procedural manual that no one has every thought about before or considered.
That brings me to the point of this post. Design thinking begins by asking the question, “How might we…?”. So, how might we change this small, yet surreal moment in time in a patient surgical experience so the last feeling or thought we have doesn’t have to deal with nudity in public? How might we change this period so it’s more peaceful and relaxing? Any thoughts?

For those of you that are about ready to experience your first surgery, know that this surreal experience is a possibility. I’ve never brought this up to my surgeons before, but if you’re uncomfortable with nudity I think you should talk to your doctor about this. Now, if you are completely comfortable with nudity, know that sometimes it takes the nurse awhile to find those heated blankets so expect to be freezing for a while. Germs hate cold so it’s usually freezing in the operating room.

Nudity is an odd subject. Hopefully I’ve brought some attention and thought to a part of the surgical experience I know others have felt and experienced too. It’s not the surgical staff or hospital’s fault that nudity is such an odd and weird topic in our culture. However, it’s a part of the surgical experience, like it or not. True patient-centered care requires us to talk about this subject in hopes of changing the last thing I feel before being put under from the surreal to the peaceful.