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Behind Closed Doors: New Eyes in the OR
What you learn when you're teaching.
Paula Watkins
Publish Date: March 3, 2015   |  Tags:   Opinion
new nurse in the OR NEW NURSE Remember, every OR nurse has to start somewhere.

Some of the best days I've had in surgical nursing were those when I shepherded a new hire into the flock. For me, being asked to precept a new OR nurse is an honor. I literally can't tell them everything they need to know fast enough. It gushes out of me like water from a break in a dam. It can also be stressful. Your shadow is looking to you as the authority, the source of all knowledge. Above all, introducing a new nurse to surgery makes it possible to see the job I've been in for so long with new eyes. You may think you know nursing, but teaching will teach you a thing or two. Such as:

Our process is not always intuitive
So there you are, trying to manage the routinely hectic circus of preparing to transport a patient to surgery. You're conducting an interview, confirming consent, flagging down the pre-op nurse for a signature and pulling a bouffant over the patient's hair. If the patient doesn't have a sudden nervous urge to hit the head, you might just make that ridiculous 20-minute turnover time.

You're showing the ropes to a nurse who's just transferred to the OR from the Med Surg unit. You're moving right along, when all of a sudden your charge spots a skin anomaly. Everything screeches to a halt as she calls an all-points-bulletin for a dressing to cover it. Of course you were going to address the wound — once you got the patient on the OR table. You see all kinds of things while you're positioning and sticking pads on everywhere. Plus, once you're in the OR, there'll be lots of time while you're waiting on Dr. Somewhere Else to show up. Right now we've got to go, go, go. Hours later, when you finally have a moment, you'll have to remember to explain that patient care is important, but OR time is the ruler.

If you care about patients …

…care about the new hires. A seasoned OR nurse can make or break a new grad or new arrival. That shouldn't be a choice we'd ever consider. A lot of us were subjected to intimidation, lies, withheld information and other forms of occupational hazing when we were starting out. I'd like to say that was the past, but the practice continues.

Under the bus is no place to learn. We're nurses, not mechanics. We should be flattered that new and fresh minds want to learn surgical nursing and stand beside us in patient care. So I refuse to put them through a trial by fire, and so can you.

You can never have too many co-workers, especially when you're facing the real enemy, long cases without breaks. But more importantly: young nurses aren't a threat. They're the future. I want them to know everything I do, and more. I want to know that the up-and-coming faces behind the masks will be able to deliver the best care to every patient (one of whom may be me).

We are the light
In the days of Florence Nightingale, nurses carried oil lamps on their rounds when tending to patients. The lamps were welcome and warm light that let patients know they were not alone. I think we still carry that warm light. I think we are that light. I can see it in the newest members of our teams. Surgical nurses have to have a fire inside them to do what they do, and I see it as my responsibility to keep that fire burning in my successors.