Behind Closed Doors: Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

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Don’t forget to take an occasional look at the lighter side of surgery.


Working in health care is a noble profession of the utmost importance, but some say you need a slightly sick sense of humor to make it in the OR. They might be onto something because we spend the better part of our days in high-stress surgeries up to our elbows in blood and guts. During tough times, we sometimes laugh to keep from crying.

Thank goodness for the socials! The jokes about surgery posted on Pinterest and the in-the-trenches stories folks share on Facebook and LinkedIn mean there’s no shortage of perioperative parody available to bring smiles to the faces of weary staffers. I have my own Pinterest board dedicated to operating room decorum (or lack thereof), and I’m constantly adding to it. Here’s a small sampling of the gems I’ve discovered over the years:

  • Laughter is not the best medicine — propofol is.
  • You might be a scrub tech if you pass the butter knife at home as if it’s a scalpel. (Check out my “You might be an OR nurse if …” column for a few laughs if you missed it the first time around: osmag.net/paulaspinterest).
  • Surgery is hours of boredom, minutes of thrill and seconds of terror.
  • Tell your friends and family not to worry about wearing clean underwear in the event they have an unplanned trip to the OR. We don’t care about the underwear, it’s the dirty belly button we’re hung up on. (I once had a surgeon make me prep there three times before he was satisfied!)
  • Don’t you find it a little unnerving when surgeons call what they do their practice?
  • Horse whisperer? I’d rather be the vein whisperer.
  • No, I don’t cuss like a sailor. I cuss like an OR nurse who’s called in for a non-emergent case by a surgeon who’s not on call and two hours late!
  • Having a surgeon estimate his blood loss is like having a used car salesman estimate his honesty.
  • Bill Withers must have had a Mayo stand in mind when he wrote his classic hit. Lean on me when you’re not strong ... And I’ll be your friend ... 
    I’ll help you carry on.
  • The only scientifically proven use for ortho hoods is the annual clean out of the staff lounge fridge.
  • Cosmetic surgery used to be such a taboo subject. Now you can talk about Botox and nobody raises an eyebrow.
  • I work long hours, wear bodily fluids that aren’t mine and get screamed at for not moving fast enough. And that’s on a good day.
  • “Let’s just close ’em up. It’s 5:00, and I’ve got plans at 6:00,” said no surgical professional ever.
  • You don’t like surgery? It’s fine, sut-ure yourself.
  • Don’t make me use my orthopedic surgeon voice.

Keep on keeping things light, dear readers, because people with a good sense of humor have a better sense of life. I got that off Pinterest, too. OSM

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