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Behind Closed Doors: Let’s Try This Again
My New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken.
Paula Watkins, RN
Publish Date: January 10, 2022   |  Tags:   Opinion

It’s hard to believe another year is in the books. New Year’s wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory and overly ambitious list of resolutions we can’t possibly achieve. We all do it, don’t we? To be honest, some of these self-help promises won’t make it to the end of this month. In any event, in 2022 I’m going to…

Quit smoking. We all know it’s a nasty habit linked to some serious health consequences, not to mention the bad optics of a nurse pushing to eliminate surgical smoke from the OR and lighting up on her lunch breaks. Besides, patients who manage to make it through surgery without experiencing PONV only to wind up feeling nauseous because a provider smells like a hospital ward from the golden era of Philip Morris won’t speak too kindly about the care they received on satisfaction surveys.

Laugh out loud. Surgery is serious business, but sometimes you need to relieve some tension with some good-natured fun. Isn’t it great when someone cracks wise between cases and chuckles turn into chortles and chortles turn into cackles that escalate until you can’t breathe? I’ll take more of that this year, please and thank you. 

Be more decisive. Ever see one of those schizophrenic squirrels that dart into the middle of the street right in front of your car and then suddenly double back the other way? That’s how I handle everything from major life decisions to what I should get at Chipotle. Thankfully, I’m steadfast in surgery when my sole focus is the patient on the table.

Rise and shine. I’m going to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier, so I won’t feel rushed getting out the door in the morning. I like to clock in 30 minutes before my shift begins to get dibs on scrubs that actually fit and gather the supplies needed for the first case. Starting the morning off on the right foot helps me deal with whatever comes my way, even when schedule delays and difficult cases threaten to derail the day.

Not sweat the small stuff. I’ll always prioritize safe surgery and will do whatever it takes to practice patient-centered care, but won’t beat myself up too badly when the equipment needed for the final case of a long day that ran late isn’t in the room on time.

Take five. We’re all being asked to do more with less and staffing shortages have left many facilities undermanned, but you shouldn’t have to skip lunch and pass on scheduled breaks. Trust me, you’ll be more useful and engaged in your work if you commit to finding a few free minutes to take a breath and regroup.

Hold my tongue. Most of the surgical professionals I encounter are amazing and dedicated providers who inspire me with how hard they work to care for the patients who trust them with their lives. But every now and then, I’ll get teamed up with surgeons who bark orders, surgical techs who misplace scalpels and circulators who can’t maintain current preference cards. If you’re a faithful reader, you know this resolution is the odds-on favorite to be broken first.

It takes courage and hard work to change your ways. Go ahead and set the bar high, but don’t worry if you don’t clear the hurdles. The important thing is to live for the present and prepare for the future as best you can because it arrives much sooner than you think.

Happy New Year, my dear readers! OSM