Behind Closed Doors: Orchids & Onions


The highlights and lowlights of life in the OR.

onions and orchids

Old-fashioned newspaper editorial pages used to spotlight the recent pluses and minuses they’d observed in an amusing manner and without much hostility. Taking a page from their playbook, I’m handing out “Orchids & Onions.”

Orchids to the surgeons who show up late (really!) because then it’s abundantly clear that the staff isn’t at fault for delayed case starts due to lengthy turnover times. Working with a consistently late surgeon is much preferable to being assigned to a hyper-punctual surgeon every single day of the week and always catching the blame for the delays.

Onions to whoever it was that left the empty box for the item I went running for on the supply room shelf. I suppose I should be thankful, at least, that you took the trouble to put the box back in its right place, to let me know that we ran out. That’s just as good as leaving a sticky note for the materials manager, right?

Orchids to having a little bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which helps me keep up with the surgeon who does his cases the exact same way every time. Onions to the surgeon who never does any case the same way, except for the part where he yells at his staff, “I always do it this way! Why can’t you people get it together?”

Onions to those days when you’ve gathered everything you need for your entire slate of cases, then changes to the schedule send you to a room where the circulator hasn’t pulled or arranged anything even for the next hour.

Orchids when you can get your hands on one of those duckbill-style surgical masks when scrubbing in for a case. They don’t feel as suffocating during “forever-and-a-day” cases, plus you can draw a smile on them with a marker to look friendly while you’re actually snarling. This works wonders with local anesthesia and MAC patients, when you have to keep talking with them throughout surgery. (I’ll admit it: I’m not always Glinda the Good Nurse, spreading glitter wherever I go. Sometimes I like dealing with patients better when they’re unconscious.)

Onions to overly expensive (and hideously ugly) OR shoes that do a torture job on your feet, legs, knees and back, as well as to everyone who says they feel like heaven and make a big difference when you’re standing around all day.

Orchids to the moment you’re offered the ideal position at another hospital, you put in your notice and you hear your co-workers are planning a going-away party. Onions when you’re scheduled to work late on your last day and find out that the party they’re throwing is on the Monday after you’re gone.

Onions to the little irritations on the job, like the surgeon who told me to adjust the light, then criticized each move because I didn’t position it exactly as he’d pictured it in his mind. (I pictured adjusting the light into the back of his head, repeatedly.)

Orchids to a job that is, more often than not, the best opportunity ever, even if they did lie to you in school about all the money you were going to make. They also left out the part about the adopted family you’d be working with and, if you’re lucky, the lifetime friends you’d make along the way.

Related Articles

September 28, 2023

There’s a significant problem in many operating rooms across the United States: Electrosurgical devices can cause significant patient burns and life-threatening fires...

September 27, 2023

At the beginning of 2021, only two U.S. states had enacted legislation mandating the use of smoke evacuation systems in every OR for every smoke-producing procedure....

Be Fundamentally Sound to Prevent Infections

One need look no further than the emerging threat from Candida auris (C. auris), a fungus that is highly resistant to drugs designed to kill it, to realize the importance...