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Archive June 2020 XXI, No. 6

Behind Closed Doors: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Even the most difficult aspects of OR life hold a certain appeal.

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR


TRUE LOVE There's nothing better than working in surgery, even on the toughest day.

Now that electives are back on, I’ve become nostalgic for insanely packed days of 25-plus surgeries with four rooms humming, nurses crisscrossing the hall and a waiting list of add-on cases. Here’s what else I’m looking forward to experiencing again soon.

Relaxing in recovery. PACU staff do a great job of getting patients up and moving, and discharge them as soon as it’s safe to do so. Still, there’s always one patient who doesn’t grasp the concept that outpatient facilities perform same-day surgery. You know what? I can’t wait to remind Amenity Andy that he shouldn’t confuse our four-star service with the Four Seasons.

Smart-aleck surgeons. Early this year, before the virus struck, I grew irritated with a fresh-faced surgeon who was wet behind the ears to everything. The best scrub techs with the most experience helped him get acquainted with instrument sets and took their own notes of his preferences. The most experienced circulator took him under her wing, clearing many obstacles so he could soar.

From the moment he took flight, it didn’t take long for the suddenly confident doc to get a little too comfortable. He strolled in three hours late for surgery, tossing his two phones on the circulator’s COW and cutely demanding that all his calls be answered. He wanted us to jot down who called on a card in handwriting he could read. I’m looking forward to possibly running into him again, so I can tell him how I really feel. I think he’ll get the message.

The adrenaline rush. Thanks to the pandemic, normal rooms now require a more concentrated cleaning between cases. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very good thing for everyone involved. Still, what’s going to happen to sacred turnover times? Regardless of the speed at which we move in a COVID-19 era, I’m actually excited about getting back to working in a fast-paced OR. God help me.

Standoffs with anesthesia. I’ve only had a few dig-in-my-heels disputes with the head of the table. The most memorable involved me refusing to move a patient during a rather vicious moment of regurgitation. The anesthesiologist loudly insisted that I immediately move the patient to the OR because she needed to perform a rapid sequence induction. (I’m convinced she was gagging behind her mask.) I gave her the look — you know the one — and said firmly and not so politely, “Not until she’s given a Zofran IV so it at least appears we have some compassion for her discomfort.” Luckily, this episode was an exception. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some extraordinary anesthesia pros over the years. Still, I’m excited to put my look — you know the one — back to good use.

Dealing with whipper-snapper surgeons, the aggravation of unavailable medications, custom packs being recalled, scrub struggles, storage issues, overzealous surveyors, unrealistic turnover times and clashing with an anesthesiologist doesn’t seem so irritating. In fact, I actually miss these things quite a bit.

I really do hope all this social distancing and mask wearing lets us return to how things used to be just a few months ago. In the meantime, I’m using the virus vacation as an opportunity to appreciate all the things I miss about this never boring and always fulfilling career as an OR nurse. OSM

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