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

A day in the life of Nurse in Emergency Room

Visualize this..a nurse is working in the hospital on a morning shift and as soon as she begins her shift she already has three patients in there-a 42 year old male with abdominal pain, a 72 year old female with severe respiratory distress, an 18 month old baby who has swallowed a part of his toy. By the time she plans out how she will proceed to managing these three patients she receives a call of a head on collision of a school bus with a minivan. She now has to start prepping to receive the injured patients. By now you would have guessed which unit this nurse is working in. Yes- it’s the Emergency room or the ER. 

Nurse taking serious patient to emergency room

Emergency room (ER) or the emergency department as may be known in some hospitals is that unit of the hospital where patients come in times of an urgent health related situation such as severe illnesses or injuries.  This unit functions round the clock and there will be many patients who may need to be managed at one time. There may not be a fixed schedule of activities as each day is going to be different, with different types of patients and varied challenging situations. Almost all the time it is the ER nurse who will be the first person to come in contact with the sick patient and family.  The environment in the ER can be chaotic at times hectic and very fast paced

Emergency Nurses work with a team of healthcare professionals that include the doctors, nurses, technicians etc. The ER nurses are specialized in carrying out rapid assessment and management of patients keeping in mind that every second is crucial to a patient’s survival. The emergency room nurses remain calm, efficient, and empathetic while working incredibly long shifts with few breaks.

Roles and responsibilities of an ER nurse

Patients of all ages come to the ER and so it is important that the nurse has adequate knowledge and skills about different disease conditions as well as managing patients of different age groups. 

The tasks that an ER nurse performs are similar to that performed by any nurse in a different unit, the difference being the time taken to perform the procedure.  The time is shortened as patient’s survival is at stake. An ER nurse is expected to be swift in her actions so that she can handle the sick patient aptly.  If you happen to take up a job in the ER these are some of the activities that you will be expected to perform

  • Quick and accurate assessment of patients
  • Triage patients based on the severity of illness/injury. Some institutes may have a triage nurse specifically carrying out this responsibility
  • Continuous monitoring of patients 
  • Work in coordination with the health team members to provide quality and timely care to the patient
  • Getting relevant diagnostic tests done
  • Manage the critically ill/injured patients during the initial phase by timely administration of medications, intravenous infusions or as directed by the physician
  • Provide psychological support to the patient and family members
  • Report any suspected abuse
  • Provide follow up care instructions to patients and make necessary referrals
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date patient charts
Skills required of an ER nurse

Most of the hospitals may require that the ER nurse have some additional certifications such BLS and ACLS or emergency nursing or trauma care. In addition, you should possess the following skills

  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Critical thinking 
  • Close observation 
  • Organization and prioritization skills 
  • Multitasking and time management
  • Good communication and interpersonal relationship
  • Compassionate towards the patients & family members
Challenges faced by an ER nurse

As mentioned earlier, working in an ER can be hectic and very unpredictable. Nothing is structured and you will have to manage patients of all ages with varied health related issues. This can be stressful and emotionally draining at times. Though there may be lean moments in the ER, most of the time the unit tends to be quite busy with continuous inflow of patients and long shift hours. This can be physically taxing too. The ER nurse is also exposed to violence from patients or family members. These may be patients under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may be experiencing psychiatric symptoms. The family members may also be hysterical and have anger outbursts putting the nurses and other team members at risk for violence.  

Do you have it in you to become an ER nurse?

Considering the fast paced and unpredictable environment that an ER has, you need to possess good coping skills. There should be the ability to remain calm and efficient even though working through a tiring shift. You also need to have a good control over your emotions as at times the scene in the ER may not be too encouraging. In addition, you need to possess good decision-making skills and have passion for continual learning. So, if you feel you have the above skills in you and working in a fast moving environment with different kinds of patient’s excites you then this is the right career option for you after you finish your basic program in nursing.