A day in the life of Operation Theatre Nurse

An operation theatre (OT) nurse assists the surgeons during surgeries. These may be small ones or minor surgeries or big ones also known as major surgeries. Working in OT all day can be very intense, but if you are in a team that’s cooperative and work closely it can be fun too. This is especially true for those who enjoy being part of a surgical team and of course have a lot of stamina.  This stamina is needed not just because they are on their feet the entire day, but are also concentrating on one single task the entire time while they are assisting for surgery.  

What are the responsibilites of an OT Nurse?

A nurse in the OT is expected to have all the skills of a regular nurse and also some specialized skills. She should have a thorough knowledge of the aseptic & sterile techniques, understanding of patient safety and precautions and upto date knowledge of surgical procedures. She should be thorough with the instruments that are used for different surgeries and how they are set on the tray/trolley

The OT nurse will have to shoulder varied responsibilities. She may either be a circulating nurse or a scrub nurse. As a circulatory nurse she will 

  • Monitor the patient before and after surgery
  • Be an advocate for patient and family
  • Manage the personnel, equipment, supplies and environment during the surgical procedures
  • Ensure that all documentation whether related to patient or the surgery is compete

As a scrub nurse she will

  • Work directly with the surgeon in the sterile field handing instruments and other items needed for the surgery
  • Ensure that the sterile field is maintained throughout the surgery
  • Responsible for the counts of instruments, blades, swabs and other items used throughout the surgery 
  • Show quick reaction at times of an emergent situation
What qualities make a great Operation Theatre Nurse?

If you are contemplating taking up OT as your area of clinical practice then these are some of the qualities that you need to possess. 

  • Well organized –It is very important for an OT nurse to be well organized and systematic. You should be aware of the surgeries that you will be assisting for either as a scrub or a circulatory nurse so that you are well prepared. During any surgery every swab, instrument, and sharp have to be counted for. All items on your tray must be counted before, during, and after surgery, to ensure nothing is retained inside the patient.
  • Good observation-While this is a quality that needs to be present in every nurse, it’s very important for the OT nurse to be able to pay attention to every detail that is happening in the OT. This would include listening carefully to what the surgeon is saying, the availability of supplies on the sterile table, monitoring the patient etc. Good observation and attention to details goes hand in hand with being organized. 
  • Team player-The environment in the OT is complex and dynamic with health care workers from different teams working together. These include the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, the technicians, the physician assistants etc. You should have the ability to maintain a harmonious relationship with the team and work together for a successful surgery. 
  • Calm & composed-During surgery, at times things may not go as expected. For e.g the surgery may take a longer time than expected or the patient may develop complications. You must be prepared for all such situations and be able to react in a timely and calm manner. However emergent the situation you should be able to maintain your composure.
  •  Physical and mental strength-As an OT nurse you will be on your feet for hours at a time especially if you have scrubbed for a surgery. You should not be overtaken by fatigue and poor concentration thereby tendency to cause errors.  You also need to be mentally strong to endure the distressing situations that you may have to visualize at times e.g., amputation of a limb, uncontrolled bleeding or removal of an internal organ. Thus, good physical health and mental fortitude is very pertinent for an OT nurse. 
  • Developing skills and being updated-You need to keep yourself updated on the changes that are taking place in different surgical procedures. Spend time in learning the set of instruments that would be required for different surgeries. Improve your skills by taking on responsibilities and volunteering to scrub for different surgeries. The more you practice, the better skilled you would be 

To be an OT nurse you should have completed your basic education in nursing and cleared the state licensure examination. Some hospitals may require you to take on additional certifications. The role of the OT nurses is both unique and challenging and requires diverse set of skills. A good OT nurse is one who knows what needs to be done next and acts accordingly rather than waiting for the request. If you feel you have these set of skills in you and the required physical and mental strength then this is definitely an area that you can look to join

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