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Behind Closed Doors
Outrageous OR Behavior
Paula Watkins
Publish Date: August 7, 2008   |  Tags:   Opinion

Dear Diary,

I thought throwing things at work had gone the way of the lime-green leisure suit, but today proved me wrong.

A surgeon got seriously ruffled when he had to sign a new informed consent. With the CRNA and the scrub tech in the OR (and me watching through the window), he hurled a marking pen across the room. It hit the ceiling and exploded, sprinkling ink on the wall, the floor and even the sterile field. Were we dealing with a five-year-old?

I wasn't that shocked, though. As a nurse I've been cursed and called something that rhymes with "witch." I've been kicked, my knuckles have been rapped and once I was physically shaken by a surgeon who snarled that if the patient died, it would be my fault. Then there was the doc who pretended to point a gun and said, "You're dead to me."

These incidents annoyed me, but when you've seen it all, you've got to call outrageous OR behavior exactly what it is: a farce to be reckoned with.

• • •

As a traveling nurse, my aim is to work. I want the room that's busy all day. When there are several ORs running, though, why do I always end up with the meanest, ugliest, most obnoxious surgeon every time he visits?

It's either that or Dr. Casanova's OR, where you spend the entire day dodging his innuendoes, off-color jokes, touchy-feely hands and insistent invitations to go out after surgery. He tends to get cranky and puts on an attitude when I reject his repeated advances. But the fact of the matter is, he's the surgeon, I'm the circulator, and that's as far as this relationship is going to go.

Surgeons who seem to neglect showers and deodorant are also fun to work with. Note to surgeons: We work closely. If you're feeling not-so-fresh, we'll know it. And if you've spent last night partaking of alcoholic beverages, your mask isn't going to cover up the evidence that sloppy oral hygiene has left behind.

One hospital I worked for actually let staff members call physicians by their first names, but I found I just couldn't do it. It's a food-chain thing. Besides, I like the nicknames I mutter under my breath better.

• • •

We're in the healing business, but you'd forgive an outsider if he got confused about our intentions. The nervous patient says, "Just knock me out." Isn't that assault and battery?

He's also given us consent to jab him with a needle, smother him with a mask and noxious gas that renders him unconscious and inject foreign substances into his bloodstream. We slice and dice him, sometimes rearranging his insides. We do put him together again, but it's with string, staples and glue. Then we make him move to another bed.

On second thought, "knocking him out" might take less effort and time on our part.

• • •

Once I had to put a surgeon's glasses on his face mid-surgery. It was a trial-and-error process. "What are you trying to do, blind me?" he roared. Without thinking, I replied, "Yeah, but you keep dodging my efforts."

If you can, you've got to keep your sense of humor intact in the OR. I do love it when a surgeon or anesthesia provider says, "You're killing me." Being a team player, I've started asking them to elaborate. I want to keep up the good work.