But today it was.
I got to spend my clinical day in the operating room and got to see an actual brain surgery. The doctor was good enough to hold the brain hemispheres apart enough for me to see the optic nerve and communicating arteries. Oh yeah. That completely rocked!
It was a day of relying in communicating with mostly eye contact, since everything from the nose down was covered. Good thing I did my eyebrows before I left for clinicals this morning.
Ever since I have entertained the notion of being a nurse, I thought I would like to work in the OR. Working in the OR has several characteristics that I like.
1. The circulating nurse spends a lot of time on the computer and on the phone. For an office refugee like me, that's a natural transition.
2. It's freezing in there. I'm hot all the time, so the frigid atmosphere agrees with me.
3. Doctors like to listen to music while they operate. I like to listen to music while they operate. That's a win-win.
4. There are cool instruments to play with.
5. The patient is asleep.
6. The patient's family is in the waiting room.
The nurse plays two basic roles in the OR - scrub nurse and circulating nurse. The scrub nurse works in the sterile area with the doctor, sets up the table with all the instruments the doctor will need for a case, and then passes instruments back and forth and deals with used equipment that the doctor no longer needs. Nurses don't get to be in the scrub role very much anymore. Hospitals have found it cheaper to hire scrub techs for the job instead.
The circulating nurse sets up the room, tests the equipment to make sure it's working, monitors the room to make sure no one breaks into the sterile field, and basically runs errands so that people who are already in the sterile field can stay there. So after anywhere from a few minutes to an hour before the case, there is lots of frenzied activity getting things ready for the operation. Once the surgery starts, things quiet down and everyone gets down to business.
Notice that she's sitting down.
I love it.
I'm very much taken with the work environment, and I think work environment has a lot to do with how well you like your job. I'm trying to be realistic. I don't want to wind up quitting nursing after I've put so much time and effort into my education. Every time I ever go to the OR, it feels like such a good fit for me. This feeling never changes no matter how many times I go.
As for the patient being asleep and the family in the waiting room, I don't want to sound mean, but in my short time in nursing school I have found the most difficult thing to deal with in the nursing role is patient's families. There are difficult patients from time to time, but difficult family members outnumber difficult patients 10 to 1. Many times the patient and I are getting along just fine. He or she is clean, fed, medicated and comfortable. Next thing I know a family member comes in demanding that we "DO SOMETHING" for their family member who was perfectly content last time I checked.
Inside I feel myself screaming "let me do my freakin' job, okay?" I can do a fine job taking care of someone, making sure they are safe, that they are getting the right medication in the right dose at the right time, that they are clean, dry and pain free all without you giving me the hairy eyeball, telling me stories about how you got someone fired for not doing something the way you wanted it done. What is going through a person's mind when they threaten a nurse or student like that? If you're trying to impress me or earn my respect, you're failing in a spectactular fashion.
Over the summer I was taking care of a man who had knee surgery. I did my usual thing - check him top to toe, bathed him, made sure he was not in pain, made sure he was eating okay, had enough blankets, had fresh ice water in his pitcher and had everything he needed within reach. About an hour later I went in to check on him and half a dozen family members were swarming around the bed. One of them snarled at me "turn down the thermostat. It's too hot in here." There was no polite request, for example "can you please turn down the thermostat." No. This was an ugly demand. To top it off, she was standing within arm's reach of the thermostat. She could have turned it down herself if she would just bend at the waist. After being struck (momentarily) speechless I said "Oh, didn't the thermostat worked when you tried turning it down?" Her mouth feel open and an "uh" was uttered. Then I turned to the patient and asked "Is it too hot in here for you?" The patient said "No, I'm fine." So I said "let me know if there is anything I can do for YOU." and left the room.
Again, the media doesn't help. They regurgitate stories about how x-number of people were killed by medication errors, or how hospital infections are spread by unwashed hands. True and true, I don't deny it. What the media doesn't talk about is how nurses are given too many patients to take care of safely, and then they're pressured to not work any overtime. Naturally people compensate by taking shortcuts and unfornately this also leads to mistakes. I can appreciate you being there to make sure your family gets good care. But jeez. Can you at least be polite while you're there?
In the OR I can knuckle down and work. I like the role that OR nurses play - patient advocate. We are there to be the advocate for the patient when they are the most vulnerable of all - unconscious. In the OR it would be my job to make sure everything is correct - that they are doing the right surgery, that he is given the right medication, that he is positioned in such a way that his circulation won't be cut off, that no one who hasn't properly scrubbed goes near him. I like the feeling of responsibility that comes with that. But I feel better knowing I can do whatever I can for the person in that state without someone standing over me, making unreasonable demands over nit-picky details - like making sure the sun doesn't get in their eyes.
If your family member is in my care in the OR, I guarantee they will get the best possible care.I will do everything in my power to make sure they are safe and they'll come back to you pretty much all in one piece, even though a piece or two might be missing.
Everything will be fine as long as you don't ask me to turn down the thermostat.