Nursing can be tough, but it’s a rewarding job. However, one of the hardest areas of the vocation – other than working in ER – is scrubbing up as an operating room nurse. It’s a fantastic experience, but many can find it overwhelming, especially for the first year or so. Today’s guide will look at what you should expect when you qualify or make the switch into OR nursing. Let’s take a closer look.
A strong stomach
First of all, being in an operating room is a quite visceral experience. There will be blood, many vicious looking instruments, and you will need to keep your head at all times. If you are squeamish, it’s something that might not appeal – but you can get over the initial shocks over time. Of course, every nurse is used to the human body and all that it expels. But, there is something about the operating room that can bring up plenty of physical and mental reactions that you won’t get anywhere else.
A cool head
As you progress through your career, your responsibilities will increase. And, the more you have to do, the more important it is to get everything right. There are several different jobs for nurses in the OR, from handing instruments to the surgeon, to sucking up bodily fluids. You can be an assistant to the anaesthetist, too. Check out this guide on OR nursing jobs for more details – http://allnurses.com.However, whatever you do, there will be a lot of pressure, and the operating room is no place for having a panic attack.
A thick skin
Just like any other job, there will be people you like, and others you don’t. And, when the tension gets wrenched up a little, people will blow. It’s important to cast aside any personal thoughts about people and act professionally at all times. Surgeons are often the source of many of these blow-ups, but they are the ones under the most pressure. Regardless of your relationship with them, don’t take things personally. A thick skin is imperative.
The operating room has to be sterile, or patients will die – it’s as simple as that. As an OR nurse, it’s going to be your responsibility to keep your personal hygiene levels up to scratch. The hospital will make it easy for you in many ways. For example, normal nurses can buy their own scrubs and uniforms if they want. In surgery, however, hospitals tend to provide them to their OR staff for hygiene reasons. Don’t worry about fashion faux pas, though. Scrubs are pretty on point these days – check here for some examples: UniformsandScrubs.com/landau.html. You should also get in the habit of washing your hands in the correct way. Again, you will learn all this as part of your training, but it’s up to you to keep up with the hygiene.
As you can imagine, communication skills are vital when you are in the operating room – and just as important outside it. During surgery, you might have to relay important information to a surgeon or anaesthetist – and the pressure will be on. Outside of the room, it’s important to get as much feedback as possible. You may have to be quite demanding of your mentor, as cases often run quickly into the next with little time for discussion.
A sense of humor
There is an element of gallows humor in the OR. It’s no surprise when you consider some of the sights you will see. It’s not just the blood and tissue that will be on show, either. You might have to do some work in the recovery room, dealing with patients who are coming off their drugs. Some people can get violent, some can be scared, and some might feel rather wanton. No matter what their reaction is, you should keep your sense of humor and understand what they are going through.
A sponge for a brain
Nothing in training can prepare you adequately for life in the OR. When you are just starting out, there will be moments when you think you aren’t cut out for the job. There is so much to remember, from processes to drug names, and instruments to surgeon’s preferences. When you get things wrong, you can expect some grief. The best thing is to use your brain like a sponge and try to remember as much as possible. It’s a difficult task. Take all the instruments and sutures that you will use, for example. Not only do they each tend to have a couple of official names, but the surgeons will have different pet names for them, too. It sounds like a small thing, but when you have someone lying there unconscious, it can often get the better of even the best OR nurses.
A strong heart
You are never closer to death quite so much as you are in the operating room. In fact, most patients are, in technical terms, dead already, only being kept alive by the machinery and the anaesthetists. There will be bad days when the patient never gets back up from the table. And, it is going to have an effect on you – it’s never easy. There will be days when you hate your job – especially when you see the pain of the relatives that are left behind. But, the vast majority of times you will be saving lives, not watching them extinguish.
Compassion and empathy
You won’t have much contact with patients in their normal state – but you will have to speak to them. It is important to be compassionate and empathetic, as it can be a scary experience for them. It might be routine to you, but you can bet your life they have looked at the statistics and are worrying they will never come around. Part of your job is to help them feel comfortable, keep them calm, and be nice.
So, there you have it – a little glimpse into the life of an operating room nurse. It’s tough – but a rewarding job. And it’s a career that you will get a lot out of if you give it enough time. Good luck!
This post has been contributed by Ryan Gatt, it contains affiliate links.