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Archive August 2019 XX, No. 8

Behind Closed Doors: You Might Be an OR Nurse If

Sure signs that you work in surgery.

Paula Watkins

Paula Watkins, RN, CNOR


There are nurses, and then there are operating room nurses, those masked crusaders infused with a special blend of smarts, savvy and strength to stand up for patients and to stand up to surgeons. Surgical nurses are a breed apart. I can pick one out of a crowd. In case there were ever a doubt, here are sure signs you’re an OR nurse.

  • There are 2 pens and a pair of bandage scissors in the pocket of whatever you’re wearing.
  • There’s a box of disposable gloves and masks in your car console, and an airway pocket face mask in the glove compartment.
  • You wear gloves to change your baby granddaughter’s diapers. You Purell even before you glove up and after you glove down. Then you have a panic attack while trying to resist doing a 3-minute scrub.
  • Green
  • You think about turnover time when the cars in front of you don’t move the instant the red light has turned green. “It doesn’t get any greener!”
  • You gulp down food like it’s your last meal, which is a strong possibility working in the OR.
  • Your mind goes to thinking about who all sat before you with their soiled sweaty scrubs in the nice massage chair that administration (bless their hearts) presented to your department. Where are those Clorox Wipes?
  • smoking
  • You’ve mastered the art of the 15-minute break — go to the bathroom, drink some water, eat something and check your phone — but you wonder how smokers get all those essentials done, and still find time to fire up a heater in their secret designated smoking area in your smoke-free campus.
  • You’ve organized your dresser drawers like the medication carts and supply cabinets at work: newest items to the back and older items to the front. You do outdates, and try to keep a par level of 2 for most things. You front things in your drawers. You know, the just-washed things under the items that were done yesterday. You also sort your closet by color and size.
  • The “5-Second Rule” never applies in your world. Ever. I’ve observed lay-people drop a bite of food, pick it up, look at it, blow and then gobble it right down. As long as they picked the food off the floor within 5 seconds, they think bacteria didn’t have time to transfer to the food. I have gasped in horror to watch a mother pick up a dropped pacifier, swirl it around in her mouth, and then put it back in the baby’s mouth. In my OCD world, there is no 5-Second Rule anywhere for anything. I won’t even eat that which has fallen on my counter at home, much less on my own floor.
  • Green
  • Your blood runs cold when you see someone touching dirty scrubs other than their own with their bare hands. Sometimes touching the scrubs I’ve had on for the last 8 to 10 hours seems to be a little dodgy to me.
  • You want to yank the person sitting on a clean empty patient’s bed in the hall off and throw him to the floor. Calls to mind a nurse who sat on a clean post-op patient’s bed like she was sitting on a parade float waving to the crowd while the orderly pushed her to the patient’s room.
  • You look in horror at someone licking her fingers to turn a page. Nail biters also gives me the heebie-jeebies. You know they don’t Purell or scrub their hands before sticking their fingers in their mouths. OSM
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