Archive October 2019 XX, No. 10

Behind Closed Doors: Scary Surgery

Forget ghosts and goblins, these real-life horrors make my blood run cold.

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR

BIO

INDIVIDUALIZED CARE
Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
INDIVIDUALIZED CARE The preventative measures you'll use will be dictated by a specific patient's risk assessment results.

Let's face it, there are so many aspects of life in the OR that are downright frightening. From the spooky and shadowy to the gross and ghoulish, we nurses know all about horror. And even though this curmudgeonly caregiver considers herself virtually un-spookable at this point in her career, there are still a few things that can still trigger my tachycardia.

  • EMR exorcism. There's no other way to explain it: Your EMR program must be possessed by gremlins. It's only the second case of the day and you've been kicked out of the system twice and frozen the screen once. You're behind in the redundant charting and documenting implant information in 4 different places, and by the end of the day you wouldn't be surprised if you were asking for divine intervention from the IT department.
  • Devil is in the details. Following the rules, knowing the recommendations and keeping up with my responsibilities leave me walking out the door like Frankenstein at the end of the day. And don't forget to jot down everything you do. If you didn't document it, after all, it didn't happen.
  • The vanishing tech. She's ghosted — again — after leaving the OR 3 other times to "drop something off in PACU" or "pick something up in pre-op" or "get her badge she forgot in the car."
  • Attorney on a gurney. You interview the patient, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken sweetheart of a woman. You go over her consent, and confirm the procedure, transport her to the OR and transfer her onto the table, cover her with blankets and secure her with a safety belt. After the time out, you chitchat with her while anesthesia prepares the induction. Right before drifting off to dreamland, she sends a shiver down your spine: "Now y'all do a good job. I'm an attorney."
  • The impossible manager. She swoops in on her broomstick to ask whose coffee mug was left out on the desk at the nurses' station and wonders aloud why "we are only 70% compliant with the rollout of that new screening tool."
  • The surveyor's arrival. By nature, the accreditation surveyor's appearance is always a terrifying one — no matter how prepared you are. And that's understandable. After all, an organization you paid money to is visiting to fine you for the way you've always been doing things. Talk about a nightmare.
  • Disappearing help. They offered to get the case started and then, when it's time to shave 2 areas and prep 3, your saint has suddenly vanished into thin air like a specter. Was moving the patient the only thing they had in mind in helping me to get the case started? Put your hat and booties on, get some gloves and get over here and help me!
  • Unexpected add-ons. You finish a long afternoon of cases and finally exhale. As you head for the lounge and possibly a cup of coffee, you feel a chill in the empty corridor. Your room was the first to come down and as you draw near the schedule board, there it is [sinister organ music playing]: an add-on! Worst, it's with Dr. Dread! [Psycho stabbing chords here.]

Using humor to get through a long day of surgery usually does the trick and, besides, I have the treat of working alongside surgical pros who are scary good at their jobs. Happy Halloween! OSM

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