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Archive July 2018 XIX, No. 7

Behind Closed Doors

Only an OR Nurse Would Understand

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR


No one really understands what we do on a daily basis — and sometimes we barely understand it ourselves. For example, we worry if our patient hasn't peed after surgery, then we realize we haven't peed in 12 hours. Here are 5 things I'm pretty sure only make sense to us surgical nurses.

RUBBED RAW We have to wash our hands so much that we barely have any skin left.

Get your gel on. Do you know of another job where you scrub your hands before you go to the restroom? OR people gel in and out all day. Multiple times in the course of one case. You go through a box of exam gloves in 8 hours. Then you scrub your hands between cases. I get relief for a break and I gel out of the room. I remove my mask and eyewear at the scrub sink and scrub my hands and wrists. I gel out at the double doors. I gel in when walking into the lounge and dressing room. I go to the restroom and wash my hands before using the facilities. Afterward, I wash my hands again, then gel in when I walk into the lounge and wash my hands at the sink before I eat or drink anything. We're gonna wash away our fingerprints!

1-2-3-4 Growing up, arithmetic was difficult. Still, mom insisted I learn bookkeeping (yes, I'm dating myself). Like I was ever going to work any job that required math. Of course, I chose surgical nursing. And what do we do? We count, well, everything! And not just sponges. I count the minutes left in a break or lunch to the hours left in my shift. From how many times I stir my coffee to how many years before I can afford to retire. And I count how many times one of my favorite surgeons drops the F-bomb during a case (out loud so he can hear me).


Fear the lice. A patient with head lice somehow got into the OR suite. I had no idea. The circulator calmly calls me overhead to come to the room. I nonchalantly walk in and, zoom, she is out of there faster than a scalded dog. Minutes later she's back in the room wearing a bunny suit and a towel twisted up like a turban on her head. Very seriously she asks if we could get a couple of space hoods from the hospital. I give her my look over my mask. But then she says 2 words: head lice. I walk out shaking my head ... and scratching my scalp.

Say what? I like to position myself with the computer on wheels (COW) so I can hear what's going on at the field. During a case with a pleasant surgeon, I felt like I was in the studio audience of Wheel of Fortune. "May I have a pick up, please?" "I'll take a stat now, please." "How about a scissor?" (I'll spin, Pat.)

The eye test. Many patients tell me they're prediabetic. Is prediabetes really a diagnosis? Opinions vary on the lab values that constitute being a diabetic. More certain is that diabetes often hitches a ride on obesity. Sounds prejudiced, but if my patient is obese, before I even look at the chart, I ask her if she's a diabetic. Nine times out of 10, she's diabetic and hypertensive. It's like getting two for the price of one. OSM

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