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Archive March 2019 XX, No. 3

Behind Closed Doors: I'm Surrounded by Youngsters

Who let all these twentysomething nurses into my room?

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR



In OR years, I’m officially old. I’m that nurse who thinks that if it’s not broken, keep it so I don’t have to learn how to use new stuff. And I’m that nurse who’s suddenly surrounded by BSNs who were still in diapers when I started in surgery. It hasn’t been easy getting used to these youngsters.

  • The music in the OR. If you can call that expletive-laced screeching music. OMG, something is playing, but all I can hear are derogatory remarks about women. I look around and I see anesthesia bobbing his head along with the first assist, the surgeon and the 2 techs. I’m standing there with a whiskey-tango-foxtrot look on my face, wondering how that can be a song when you can’t hum the tune or even sing the lyrics.
  • Sense of humor. Nothing’s worse than 2 young techs giggling through the entire case at the same jokes I heard surgeons tell 30 years ago. “Paula and I have a strange and wonderful relationship. She's strange and I'm wonderful.” Or the surgeon sends the new circulator after an Otis elevator. “And don’t you dare come back without it!”
  • Texting in the OR. These youngsters have withdrawal symptoms if their cell phone is not in their hands after just so long. Give them their cell phone and they totally zone out and become disassociated from the world around them. I had to practically yell at a young male tech to stop texting and move so I could get around him and the abandoned case cart he was leaning against. The stretcher I was trying to navigate was carrying 350 pounds and was not going to squeeze by.
  • Petite-sized scrubs. For years, we fought tooth and nail to find M and L scrubs (even resorting to the XLs found only in the doctor’s lounge). Now, because of, ahem, lifestyle changes, many older nurses are more comfortable in XL, XXL and XXXL scrubs. Now with the invasion of the stick-figure-thin newbies, we have a cabinet full of S and XS — and still not enough M and L. The youngsters complain of being cold. Eat something. Put some meat on those bones.
  • They type faster than I talk. Clacking away at the keyboard like a courtroom stenographer, the youngsters can finish the whole OR record by the time a myringotomy is done. That’s fine. I bet I could have completed an OR record on paper before she could. 

We’re all in this together

Yes, I know I sound like a curmudgeon. But don’t let my gruff exterior deceive you. I was once in your clogs, giggling at things my older peers thought were inappropriate.

I might look at you with disapproval, but I’m smiling when I walk away. And I might disapprove of your taste in music, but I sometimes bob my head when you aren’t watching.

I’ll watch over you. I’ll have your back if something wasn’t your fault (like the Otis elevator). I won’t let you be treated the way my older peers treated me. I’ll get between you and an abusive member of the surgical team.

When you reach my age and you’re working with a fresh-faced nurse, I hope you’ll support them and help them grow. Now please turn down that questionable music. My ears are about to start bleeding. OSM

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