By Diane Forrest, RN
I can't remember when I wanted to be a nurse, seems like I have always wanted to be one. I do remember watching MASH and the scenes in the operating room. The surgeons, Hawkeye, Frank, BJ, the Colonel, and Trapper John, would tell the nurse what instrument they needed and she would hand them with speed and precision. I was always impressed with this, and thought it would be an exciting career.
Being a perioperative nurse is a very difficult position. Their day begins very early. They start the day checking the procedures for the day. Then they make sure all the supplies and equipment are available. Once the room has been taken care of they make rounds and visit the patients and talk with them about the procedures, answer any questions, make sure the Doctor's orders are correct and all the permits are signed. When the visit is completed, they return back to the operating suite and start to scrub up. This takes 15 minutes, and that’s just the hand washing. Once scrubbed, gowned and gloved, they enter the operating room and set up the supplies. This is all done using sterile technique. Not only do they have to set out the supplies using sterile technique, but they must maintain an accurate count of everything from scalpels to sponges. This is to make sure the beginning count and the end count match. You don’t want to sew a patient up with more parts than he came in with.
Once everything has been prepared, the patient arrives and is positioned to the area that will be operated on. The anesthesiologist arrives to put them "under", and finally the surgeon appears to do his thing. As I am writing this I am reminded of the joke about men cooking:
When a man volunteers to do the 'BBQ' the following chain of events are put into motion:
- The woman goes to the store.
- The woman fixes the salad, vegetables, and dessert
- The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, and takes it to the man, who is lounging beside the grill, beer in hand.
- The man places the meat on the grill.
- The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.
- The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.
- The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.
- The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.
- After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
- Everyone praises man and thanks him for his cooking efforts.
- The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off."
And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women.
This is how it is with Perioperative nurses and Surgeons. This week is Preoperative Nurse Week. If you are planning on having surgery, or know someone who is, remember all the hard work they do to make things go smoothly for you and show them your appreciation.