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Behind Closed Doors: School of Hard Knocks
What if CEUs were based on real-world challenges surgical nurses face?
Paula Watkins
Publish Date: January 7, 2015   |  Tags:   Opinion
continuing education

Since my supply of CEUs is running short, I've been scrambling in search of free, online hours. While I've been completing quizzes on details that don't usually play a key role in the daily routine, I've been thinking about questions that would really reflect the challenges you'll face on the job as a surgical nurse.

QNew standards mandate the wearing of button-up scrub jackets in the OR to prevent contamination from skin cells. Being the clinical professional you are, you will:

  1. Ask about the purpose of this standard, knowing that it will change when it's proven that it doesn't make any difference in patient outcomes.
  2. Tell the staff to "just do it," even though you know you won't be able to make surgeons, anesthesia providers, PAs or even vendors' reps follow through.
  3. Be sure to order way more jackets than you need, to accommodate the constant changing that'll be required when ill-fitting sleeves and cuffs are dragged through skin prep solution and bodily fluids.
  4. All of the above. Why not, it can't hurt.

QA frequently used drug is suddenly supplied to your ORs in 10 mL vials instead of the customary 20 mL and 30 mL vials. When you ask the pharmacy for twice as much and they doubt your need, how will they explain the smaller packaging?

  1. The drug maker imports the 10 mL vials from a country where there's not much beachfront property, and it takes a lot of sand to make glass.
  2. There's a nationwide shortage of the drug, and the manufacturer wants to boost demand so it can raise the price.
  3. The company that makes syringes has bought the drug maker, and they want you to order in a new size of their product to get the drug out of the vials.
  4. None of the above. They never explain anything.

QYour department manager has hired a new educator, an RN with an MBA. She's energetic, smart, perky, and can recite policy and procedure verbatim. She's also never set foot in an OR. It is incumbent upon you as a staff member to:

  1. Vote down her first suggestion, that patients with MRSA, VRE, C. diff. and other superbugs get ladybug stickers on their charts.
  2. Assign her to shadow a "Golden Girl" specialty circulator, who knows all the angles, every day for 3 months.
  3. Assign her to scrub in with student nurses every day for 3 months until she's seen all the specialties. They'll learn together.
  4. I don't know, that's going to be a rough couple of months until she leaves for a job in corporate.

QIf you're so smart, then why don't you write an essay of no less than 1,000 words explaining how you would run the OR if you were elected to wear such big shoes?

OK, so maybe you'll never see those kinds of on-the-job insights in CE materials, no matter how long you're in the profession. But I've learned one thing: That old excuse "I work better under pressure" was stupid before and it's downright insane now. Happy new year, and may you never want for CEUs.

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