When I first graduated I was in awe by the demand that the nursing career field had in store for me. I was offered a position at 3 different hospitals and that’s not including the ones I turned down after the initial interview. I was on top of the world and yet I still had to make a life changing decision- What type of nurse did I really want to be?
Old school nurses tell all us “Newbs” that every nurse should start on a Med-Surge floor. Not only did I disagree then, but now after 6 months in the OR I couldn’t disagree more. The Operating Room is an entirely new world with very few similarities to a regular Med-Surge floor, or even an ICU for that matter. The skill-set needed is different, the type of people you work with is different, the environment is different, and most of all the care given to your patients is different. In fact, depending on where you work your entire job may be different depending on the community population. I was lucky enough to get in at a job where I am solely inside the Operating Room. Many community hospitals have OR Nurses that may do Pre-Op, Intra-Op, and Post-Op care.
Before I chose the Operating Room I searched high and low online to find resources on what OR Nursing would be like but I found little in regards to the specific profession. If you have not gone to nursing school I would assume that you think this is weird- I mean don’t nurses do clinical rotations in school and get to see what each department is like? The short answer is no. Many nursing schools in America do not rotate into the OR. Some nursing schools allow you to go see one or two procedures but very seldom do schools have an entire rotation that encompasses a lengthy time dedicated to learning OR Nursing.
In nursing school and throughout your clinical rotations you learn how to manage patient care. Well, the patient care is so different that the reality is… there is very little patient care involved at all. Because I am solely an IntraOp Nurse, I will only focus about my experiences from inside the Operating Room. In the OR, the circulating nurse gets about 30 minutes (if that) before the start of the case to prep the patient for surgery. This prep entails everything that one would consider “unsterile” aside from the foley catheter insertion and the skin prep. Every day I start my shift with figuring out which case I will be in. From there I have 10 minutes tops to read through my patient’s history, verify the procedure, meet with the patient, verify all the consents are correct and signed, ask all the pertinent questions, and roll the patient back. After the patient gets into the OR, Anesthesia takes over and my job is basically a “hurry-up-and-wait” game until Anesthesia has the patient sedated and intubated. As a Circulating Nurse my basic function is to ensure that anything needed for the case is available, ready for use, and the appropriate hospital personnel are also included. The skill-set is very much “managerial” and unless you are familiar with your particular OR, it can become 30 minutes of chaos.
In my rotations I feel like I mainly interacted with other nurses on my floor and my assigned patients. Due to the fact that my patients are sedated 10 minutes after meeting them, my main interactions are with the other entities in the room such as the “Pump Team” (Circulatory Bypass Team), Anesthesia, Fellows, Residents, Surgeons, and the Scrub (normally an RN or Scrub Tech). Basically most of my interactions are with Doctors, which is completely different from how it is on the floor. In fact, when I was on the floor, the main times that I saw the doctors was when there was a problem with the patient, and most the interactions seemed tense due to that. In the OR you could spend 30 minutes to 12 hours with the same Doctors depending on the case and situation so I see them at their best and sometimes at their very worst. Regardless of their current emotional stability, there does seem to be a greater sense of teamwork between the OR Staff in the room because we all rely on each other for the case to continue. I also have noticed that my views on the Surgeons that I work with seem to be remarkably different from the views that the ICU Nurses have about them. I would assume this is because of the different environment in which I get to interact with them.
Nursing is a career field in which we have so many options available and very different directions we can go inside the profession. OR Nursing is the same in that sense; while it may be considered a “specialty”, there are specialties inside the OR that one could pursue being an RN. The options are endless and I am thrilled to be a part of the RNDeer team and be able to blog about my views and experiences inside the OR. =)