Archive January 2018 XIX, No. 1

Behind Closed Doors: Oh, the Places I've Gone

I've seen and heard a lot during my 38 years in the OR.

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR


I've just about seen and heard it all during my 38 years as an OR nurse, the last 12 as a travel nurse. I've been to 17 hospitals — some for as long as 9 months and a few others for only 3 months that felt like 3 years. I've gone back to some places 3 to 5 times. I always keep a notebook in my pocket so I can jot down key names, numbers, abbreviations, and the surgeons and anesthesia providers' idiosyncrasies. I also scribble down the odd things I observe. I took time between assignments over the holidays to clear out a few dog-eared notebooks.

  • Patients say the darndest things. Fortunately for me, my filter still works. But nothing seems to stop what I'm thinking.
    What patients say What I'm thinking
    I want outta here! Yep, we do, too.
    My surgery was scheduled for more than 2 hours ago. Yep, we know that. But you chose a really slow surgeon who can't tell time. Plus, there are still 2 victims ahead of you.
    I crapped my pants. Well, yes, you did and we have no idea what you ate, but everyone down the hall can smell it and some are vomiting.
    Does the blood pressure cuff have to be so tight? I'm sorry, it has to get to know you the first time. Once it does, you'll swear it's hardly even there. (Hmm, kinda like a man.)
  • Note to self. Ask patient why he would clean under the lawn mower while it was running.
  • It only takes 1 bad apple. The anesthesia providers come in and set the mood while we're setting things up for our 7:30 case. That 1 volatile surgeon out of 5 comes in and changes the mood for the worst.
  • Sis-boom-bah. Sometimes female surgeons have their own unique way of doing things. Like the one who prefers to do the time out herself and presents it in the form of a cheer. I guess whatever it takes to get the job done.
  • What did you call me? OR nurses can have their own vocabulary to communicate with each other. For instance, Doo Mass, Asweepe, Shi Theed. This excludes the non-favored surgeons and anesthesiologist. Somehow they don't seem to have a clue.
  • Step stool Why so high? Some day I'm going to ask a surgeon, "Why do you pump the bed up as far as it will go and then ask for a step stool?"
  • Don't just sit there. Why would a surgeon sit down in a room we are turning over and ask multiple times, "How much longer?" I feel like saying, "Well, there's a mop and the linen is over on the cabinet. Knock yourself out. Really. I mean it."
  • Unit Blood Blood from a stone. The lab gives you a hard time when you order blood. Kinda like I'm asking for a pint of their own personal blood.
  • On hands and knees. I was once told to get down on the floor and trim the drapes with my sharp blunt-tip scissors to keep them from touching the floor. Huh? Like those little bugger germs are going to climb up the drape from the floor. OSM
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