Surgical Nurse

A surgical nurse has one of the most demanding but satisfying jobs in nursing according to perioperative nursing association. As a perioperative care nurse, you job is to take care of patients before, during and after their surgery.

Depending on the surgical procedure, this can mean being responsible for preparing a patient for heart or lung surgery, making sure the patient is comfortable if they are having orthopedic surgery or calming the nerves of an anxious first-time mom just about to give birth.

Surgical nurses work as part of a surgical team with surgeons, anesthesiologists, other nurses and operating theater technicians. Surgical procedures can include gallbladder surgery, hemorrhoid surgery, hip replacements, splenectomy, rhinoplasty, knee replacements, appendectomy, breast replacement, emergency surgery and much more.

A Surgical Nurse Focuses On The Patient’s Safety And Well Being

Prior to surgery, a surgical nurse helps the patient get ready for their operation. Your task is to calm the patient and explain in detail the steps of their surgery and post-operative recovery. Surgical nurses also check the patient’s vitals, help administer any medication that may be required, then sterilize and mark the surgical site on the patient’s body.

Every surgical procedure requires a great deal of preparation whether it has been performed thousands of times before in the past. That’s because every patient is different depending on their age, general health and physical and emotional well being. As a perioperative nurse, you will be required to manage all the nursing procedures associated with the operation being performed.

In the operating theater, the focus is on the patient’s ongoing safety throughout the procedure. The perioperative nurse is responsible for making sure that all the surgical equipment and medical supplies needed during the operation are all in place in the operating theater. Any special medical equipment or supplies must be ready after consultation with the surgeon and depending on the patient’s assessment and medical history.

A Surgical Nurse Has Many Tasks In The Operating Theater

When the patient is first brought into the operating theater, perioperative nurses make sure that they are comfortable and warm. Theaters are generally a lot colder than normal wards and it is common for patients to complain about being cold. The surgical nurse has blankets on standby to place over them.

The next task is to go through a checklist before the operation begins. This is known as “time out” and is important so that the patient’s name, date of birth, known allergies and the procedure to be perform are all cross-checked with the patient and the surgical team. Any antibiotics are given at this time and a consent form signed.

Once the patient has been properly prepped, the perioperative nurse will help the anesthesiologist as he prepares to put the patient to sleep under general anesthetic so the operation can commence. Strict aseptic and sterile guidelines are employed throughout the surgery so that there is minimal risk of infection. Operations can last from an hour to an entire day depending on the type of surgery being performed. This is both physically and emotionally draining for the entire surgical team and no more so than for the surgical nurse who is vital to the procedure.

Perioperative nurse work closely with the surgeon passing him instruments, carefully monitoring the patient’s vital signs and providing suction to remove blood and other fluids from the areas being operated on. Other surgical nurses circulate throughout the operating theater to ensure that everything remains sterile and surgical instruments and other equipment is counted and in their place.

One of the worst nightmares for any surgical team is for a piece of equipment or a sponge to go missing during a surgical procedure. It has happened many times before and only detected years later when a patient complains about ongoing operative pain.

Then x-rays reveal a piece of surgical equipment has been accidentally left inside their body. It is the job of the perioperative nurse to make sure this never happens and is why they are keenly observing everything that happens in theater during preoperative scrubbing, circulating during the operation or supervising other surgical team members.

Post-operative care is also as important. It is very common for surgical nurses to be fully involved in post-operative care while the patient is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This is particularly important if the patient has undergone invasive surgery or is at risk of complications.

In the post-op stage, the surgical nurse will help monitor the patient’s vital signs, keep a close eye on any post surgical complications, help administer medication and change dressings. Post-operative care is just as important as the surgical procedure itself and experienced surgical nurses can make an enormous difference to a patient’s rapid recovery.

Surgical nursing is an exciting occupation that really tests the skills and training of a nurse. Most nurses who move into this specialized field are already working as registered nurses (RNs) and have clinical experience. They then undertake a one or two year nursing program in perioperative nursing to gain practical experience in the operating theater along with theoretical knowledge of procedure.

The aim of perioperative nursing programs is for RNs to gain their surgical nursing certificate and be qualified to work in a hospital, outpatient centers and doctor’s surgeries. Once they have this certification, RNs can begin working as surgical nurses. They can also undertaken further study to obtain their Master’s Degree in Medical-Surgical Nursing. These are 18 month to 3 years surgical nursing programs designed to turn them into clinical nurse specialists. Doctoral degrees in surgical nursing are also available.

The job of a perioperative nurse is varied and exciting. No two working days are the same as no operation is ever the same so a surgical nurse must be fully trained and ready for whatever awaits them in the operating room.