Archive October 2018 XIX, No. 10

Behind Closed Doors: Late Shift

Things don't always go according to schedule

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR



In September, we celebrated Scrub Tech week. It's a nice way to thank scrubs for the wonderful job they do. Early shift got coffee and all sorts of warm delicate pastries. Late shift got a couple of leftover donuts on a napkin and coffee grounds. There wasn't even the usual swill we drink every morning in the coffee pot.

Speaking of late shift they stuck me with a shift that has no sense of belonging. I wasn't considered days and I wasn't considered evenings. I was a reliever. A stand-in. I came in and gave breaks: lunch breaks, afternoon breaks and then relief to go home. I was in every room and almost in every case every day. Of course, I finished up the day in the room with the slowest surgeon doing the longest case.

I was becoming more of a curmudgeon than I already am. I was losing my sense of humor. I could freeze water with a single stare. Finally, I was given my beloved late shift back. What can I say? I like to come to work late and work late. I don't need to see the sun rising or setting. I'm confident it will do both on its own.

. . .

We all have our favorite cases we could do all day, every day and never tire of them. The surgeon says a certain word and you have what he needs on the field before he asks for it. Even with less-than-favorite surgeons, we'd still do our favorite cases.

. . .

I got to work last week to see that I'm assigned to do a robotics case. My gut went cold and I got tachycardic.

"Come on," they said. "It will be fun to be on that special team. There will be help available if you need it."

They walked out of the room and there I stood. Alone. Sweating. Finally, the nurse who was mentoring me came in to give me step-by-step instructions. I hooked up everything before the surgeons came in. Once everything was set, I had to steer the monster into its parking place. Park a robot? Crap, I can't even park my car straight. Despite my dread, it wasn't bad at all. I even liked it. And if they don't wait too long, I think I can do another. Still, watching the arms of the robot move on their own reminded me of the introduction of "Westworld" and creeped me out a little bit.

. . .

I bought wireless earbuds for my iPhone. I wish circulators could wear Bluetooths (Blueteeth?) in the OR. We could hear everything so much better from the field and anesthesia. With the flat screens all over the OR walls, it would give you that HD surround-sound theater feeling.

. . .

My daughter and her husband are about to promote me to a position higher than CEO. I am going to be a grandmother. I can't even begin to express how excited and happy I am. I've already started stockpiling diapers, wipes and unisex onesies. Now, if the government would leave Social Security and retirement age alone, I could retire and do the one job I might be the best at yet.

I wish I could have told Charles Allen McKnight, MD, before he left us a few months ago that the amazing baby girl he delivered to me on June 4, 1985, is going to make me a grandmother. In our profession, it's amazing how we touch so many lives and don't give it a second thought because it's what we do. Sometimes those lives we touch come back together hand in hand and bless us with a touch of their own even after we are long gone. Not a day will go by that I won't look at my grandchild and thank Dr. McKnight. He will be missed. OSM

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