One Nurse's View of the Operating Room

Updated on October 13, 2017
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I was a registered nurse for 25+ years. Working mainly in the operating room, I've been everything from staff nurse to Director of Nursing.

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OR Nursing

"Are you crazy! Why do you put up with this? I'm done." This is the response I have gotten from many nurses after their first 3 months in the OR. Operating Room nursing is not for everyone. The hours can be grueling, the stress overwhelming and the work exhausting.

Why then do I love it so much? Am I crazy? OK, maybe a little...it's kind of prerequisite for working in an OR. Exhaustion becomes a way of life. You learn to eat when you can, drink when you can, sleep when you can and go to the bathroom when the opportunity arises.

You get stuck in a little room with 3-5 other strong personalities for hours on end. (More if you are a teaching facility, and have residents and med students present.) If you are the circulating nurse, you will need to orchestrate the actions into a cohesive whole. If you are the scrub nurse, you are on the front line any time something is missing or wrong.

Every second counts. You must be extremely efficient and be able to prioritize wisely. What needs to be done immediately, what needs to be done soon, and what can wait a minute. When to stop everything and when to hurry it along. How to do three things at once, and do them correctly. Decisions...Priorities...Multi-tasking, these are your challenges every moment.

All you ever see are the eyes
All you ever see are the eyes
I'm sure they are beautiful in real clothes
I'm sure they are beautiful in real clothes

Dowdy Dress Code

Did you want to look nice at work? Maybe the OR is not for you. Everyone has the same blue hair and we all wear masks. I have worked with people for months and not recognized them in a store. "Oh, I've never seen you in clothes before!" is a common greeting between OR people. Another is, "So that's what you look like with hair." You should see the looks you get from innocent bystanders when you are greeted this way.

The dress code is pretty rigid in an operating room. First, lets discuss jewelry. Jewelry is a nest of dirty, harmful, downright killer germs. Bet you never thought about what was growing in that dark, warm space under your wedding ring! Rings, bracelets and watches need to be removed.

Necklaces can break and fall into the area being operated on (what we call the wound). Please remove all necklaces. Same thing goes for earrings, please remove them...or...you can cover your ears with your cap to keep them enclosed. Sounds sensible, but it really makes hearing harder.

I guess belly piercings would be OK to leave on...they are covered. I almost forgot these...they weren't very popular back in the day...

Lets discuss nails next. Nails are another place that harbor all those murdering germs. Especially those lovely fake nails and wraps. Get them off! Keep those nails natural, clean and no longer than 1/4 inch. Standards have changed slightly in the past few years...now you can have polish on your nails, but make sure it is not chipped! Chipped nail polish can fall off into places we would rather it not go!

How about our scrubs. Nowadays, you see all these scrubs that are almost fashionable. What a breakthrough in nursing. Forget all that in the OR. We must change each morning into scrubs supplied by the facility...these are the ones that look like you are wearing a sack.

So...fashion divas...Run!

Some of the more Technical Aspects

The OR room shown is pretty messy, but I wanted to show a few (yes, just a few) of the pieces of equipment you will learn to operate and troubleshoot. The number one troubleshooting technique of an operating room nurse is...turn it off and turn it on. Surprisingly, it is number one because it usually works.

We learn to operate the multiple operating room beds. We call them tables between ourselves, and beds to the patients. Who ever heard of operating on a bed? There are the regular tables used for most procedures. There are fluoroscopy tables used when you need to x-ray the body. There are spinal tables and fracture tables. Some of these look like torture equipment! (See the picture of the Chic Fracture Table--Yes, you can really lay someone down on it...Skill required)

OR nurses also operate various lasers, warming devices, cautery units, anti-embolism units, cameras, light sources, drills, suction units, monitors, blood transfusion devices, positioning devices...I won't bore you with the entire list, I think you get the idea.

In the operating room, technical skills are as important as people skills.  Equipment necessary to the procedure has to function and function correctly.  Many pieces of equipment can harm the patient if not functioning correctly.  The surgery may have to halt at a crucial moment if something is not working.  All equipment needs to be checked prior to starting.

OR Equipment
OR Equipment
Chic Fracture Table (copied from: http://www.pemed.com/tables/chickjcltaccess26_2.jpg)
Chic Fracture Table (copied from: http://www.pemed.com/tables/chickjcltaccess26_2.jpg)
A simple set-up on a mayo.
A simple set-up on a mayo.
Femoral Nail Instruments (copied from:  http://medfixortho.com/Ortho/Ortho_Pictures/105831_DHS_DCS_basic_self_tapping.jpg
Femoral Nail Instruments (copied from: http://medfixortho.com/Ortho/Ortho_Pictures/105831_DHS_DCS_basic_self_tapping.jpg

Instruments, Instruments, Instruments!

"Why don't you try the threader from the Mitek anchor set?", I asked.  "What the hell is that?!", the doc answered.  

OR nurses need to know the names and location of thousands of instruments.  There are instruments that are used by most specialties, but also specialized instruments used by one or the other.  There are instruments for General surgery, Orthopedic, Podiatry, Plastics, Vascular, ENT (ears, nose & throat), Eyes, GYN/OB, Laser, Endoscopic, and on and on. 

Thinking outside the box is a skill of the experienced OR nurse.  You need to think of new ways to use old things constantly.  Every person is different inside, literally!  No two operations are the same.  Sometimes what you usually use, doesn't work...creativity is a must!

The Guts of the Matter
The Guts of the Matter

Let's Wrap this Up

I didn't realise I had so much to know and do as an OR nurse!  I didn't even touch on the personalities you encounter.  (I'll do that in another.)  As I said before, OR nursing is not for everyone. 

You need to love a challenge, have high energy, be able to think on your feet and hit the ground running.  Doctors yell at you every time something is missing or something goes wrong.  You are the unseen nurse.  No-one remembers your care, because they were asleep for it.

You need to have a very strong ego, everything will be your fault the instant it happens.  Later, you may get an apology...but in the instant you just let them rant.  I was taught that one of the ways I perform my job as patient advocate is to let them yell.  It was explained to me this way...better they yell at me, than their hands shake in the wound.  Much better!  Let them get it out!

However, it is also the only place in nursing that has such instant gratification!  Some-one's gallbladder is making them sick, take it out...there, they are cured.  The baby will die if it is not delivered now, take it out...there, the baby lives.

Although the docs yell a lot, they learn to depend on you and respect you more than if you were a floor nurse.  They perceive you as being smarter, more reliable.

You are challenged every day.  You learn something every day.  It is an ever changing, never static or dull, environment.  You have to BE there mentally and physically 100% at all times.  As I say, not for everyone, but I seem to thrive on it. 

Prior to becoming an OR nurse, I never stayed in the same place for longer than 3 years (and that only twice).  Things would become boring...same old, same old.  That is never a day in the OR!  I have been in the OR for 15 years and still love it.

Is the OR for you?

What do you think of the Operating Room as a nursing student?

See results

A must-have for the Operating Room

Views of a New Operating Room Nurse

© 2009 Kari Poulsen

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    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 6 days ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Cleo! I think most nurses will agree that the best part is helping others, not the paycheck. :)

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      Cleo Addams 9 days ago from USA

      Interesting article! I'm very thankful that there are nurses out there that love their jobs and genuinely want to help people. For those people, it's not just a job or a paycheck. Very refreshing. :)

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 12 days ago from Ohio

      Michele, Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. Your passion shows through! I also love being an OR nurse. When I crushed my hand and could no longer work as one, I was miserable! I miss it so much. Every day I want to be back there. :)

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      Michele C 13 days ago

      I have been in the OR for 14 yrs. Everyday is an adventure. Those outside of it don't really understand what it is that we do. It is a truly thankless career, but I LOVE my job. I can't even imagine doing anything else, EVER! People don't remember me but I remember them. Some will live in memory forever.. Life being created, life ebbing away it's all in a days work. I hope I never lose my passion for what I do and those I do it for.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 2 weeks ago from Ohio

      Marilyn, I agree! Love the job, hate the politics

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      Marilyn 2 weeks ago

      Been OR circulating nurse for 20 years still love it but not the politics of it.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 2 weeks ago from Ohio

      Dream On, Some surgeries are more complicated than others. Patients may not be able to undergo general anesthesia (put to sleep). Anesthesia will then be a spinal or block of some type, depending on the surgery. Some people have to wait until their status improves. It is a collaboration between surgeon, anesthesia provider and nurse.

      I have experienced my patient dying in the operating room. All were due to other health problems that made them high risk, but they needed surgery to live, so we had to try. I have never forgotten these people, and I never will. It takes an extreme emotional toll. People are not supposed to die in surgery. It's an unspoken rule.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. You also have a lovely Thanksgiving!

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      DREAM ON 2 weeks ago

      How do you deal with operations that go wrong do to other complicated health issues ? The loss of a patient. You might not of known this person until surgery day but their memory won't go away. I still remember loved ones that I have seen just before they passed away. It takes an emotional as well as physical toll on the body. Thank you for sharing. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thank you so much Leslie. As you can tell from reading, I loved OR nursing so very much! I miss it every single day.

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      Narcie 3 weeks ago

      OMG you are spot on,i never realized how crazy it is really working in the OR until you mentioned everything,you got it all covered.It is a very stressful area to work, but for some reason i love it so much..

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      Leslie Thomas 3 weeks ago

      You certainly got everything spot on!!! I worked in surgery for 34 years and don’t regret a minute of it!! I still miss it everyday!! I agree that the surgeons do put OR staff on a pedestal and have a closer relationship with us!! I really loved when the new surgeons would come and seem intimidated when they found out how many years you’ve worked the OR!! I will never forget the work, the relationships formed with other OCD masochists and the surgeons who were great to us!! I’ll also never forget the surgeons who were butt holes either!! A wonderful 34 year career!!! Priceless!!!

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Rochelle, Thank you. I think most nurses in the operating room are borderline OCD, lol. We are definitely perfectionists. I actually think the ER would be more stressful. At least in the OR we usually know what shape the patient is in. I loved surgery!

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Dream On, it is interesting that you bring up the card idea. A friend just had surgery, and he was given a card including the pre-op nurse and the PACU (recovery room) nurse. I found it strange that it did not include the nurse actually helping with the operation. Oh well, we OR nurses are used to not being remembered. Usually it means we did a good job, lol. :)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 weeks ago from California Gold Country

      I enjoyed getting this glimpse into the OR. Most of us who go there never get to see it. I only went there twice about 50 years ago for relatively minor things.

      Good to know that the people there, especially the nurses we never see, have such dedication to their work.

      I had a couple of friends who were ER nurses. They did it for quite a few years but the stressful environment took a toll, I think.

      People in your profession put yourself between life and death, often without much recognition. Taking care of details makes so much difference in every life situation. Thank you.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 3 weeks ago

      I couldn't resist reading all the comments. I thought of an idea. They should have pictures of all the people behind the scenes that make an operation possible. So the patient can thank everyone properly at the very least in a card. I know I had three surgeries in my life and I was in good hands of the people and staff that made me better. I can never thank them enough for all they did. Prayers to all those wonderful people in hospitals everywhere who love their job and do what very few can. Thank you for sharing and caring.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Dream On. I would run the operations through my head. Always trying to be more efficient. But, it was my love!

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 3 weeks ago

      You described it so well and it is an incredible occupation. God Bless You. It is amazing that everything works so efficiently. I can imagine the stress. I would be running every operation over in my head thousands of times. What if's and what about this. Long after the operation was done. Watching doctors perform and help people even saves lives. I would be off the walls. To all the doctors and all the staff needed in the O.R. I think you all deserve a big fat raise. Thank you for all your talents and skills that really make a difference every day. This is the closest I want to come to the operating room. Have a fantastic night.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Mel, It is hard work, but well worth it. The challenges you have to overcome daily gives one enormous satisfaction at the end of the day. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Marilyn, I view it as my greatest work accomplishment also. And, I agree, the trust that is built with your co-workers defies description. I miss it everyday.

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Linda, I agree, the human body is amazing! I also liked working with the med students and interns.

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Nancy, I never had the opportunity to work in an all RN facility. But I know I would have loved it. I have been places where I had to fight to scrub. I would get "stuck" with all the cases no one else wanted to do. I was in heaven the whole time. Never felt "stuck".

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Angie, Me too! LOVE It!!

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Pat, Of course you are proud! You know how demanding the job is, but you still love it. I am very proud of having been an OR nurse. Shout it from the mountains! :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Dottie, Your making your "case cart" for the chores of tomorrow made me laugh. As you say, once an OR nurse, always an OR nurse. I would recommend this job to all wondering about it. I would also say to give it a minimum of 1 year. That first year is the hardest!

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Jean, I agree with everything you state. There is much more responsibility needed than most people can imagine. Thinking on you feet and anticipating the "what-ifs" are such a great part of it. Flexibility is needed, but also an iron will. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Ava, you certainly do learn much about being human. And about being inhuman, lol. I think although we all love it, there are days that we hate it also.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Marcia, I didn't realize that the OR had been deleted for students. How awful! It is obvious that the instructor has no idea of what we do. Hopefully the student found more enthusiastic replies and made it to an OR.

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Dorie, I loved open-heart. I had always wanted to hold the heart still living and I got my chance. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Jama, I like your determination. I would agree, once an OR nurse, always an OR nurse. Those of us who last love the job!

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Carolyn, I bet you were the go-to person for everything. It must have been wonderful being in the same place for 41 years. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      Christina, Are you still pursuing a career in anesthesia? I know they want ICU experience, what a pain! But you would be back in the OR eventually. :)

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      Mel 3 weeks ago

      Spent 30 years in the OR . First as an ENT surgical Tech and then as Circulator/ Scrub. Spent 12 years as a traveler to teaching hospital. Now I'm retired and some days I do miss it a little( Just love to be beat). Would not give up one minute of the experience . It was the hardest thing I ever did that I loved the most. Would recommend it to any one who wants a challenge and is willing to work hard

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      Marilyn 4 weeks ago

      As an OR nurse for 30+ years in a level 1 Trauma Center, I feel like I experienced it all. The satisfaction I felt at the end of every day was so wonderful. I absolutely loved each moment of my work day and yes , it is not for everyone. You really need to develop a thick skin and as it was said, let the surgeons rant without taking it to heart. Those years in the OR were some of the best memories of my life. The trust you develop in your fellow workers is something that unless you have experienced it , you can't even imagine. Even after being out of the OR for several years now, I still miss it terribly . It was my greatest work accomplishment and I feel so fortunate to have been able to live those years as an OR nurse.

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      Linda 4 weeks ago

      I spent 30 years in the operating room. I learned so much and was so proud if our surgical teams. The human body is an amazing creation. I was lucky enough each day to care for my patients and to see miracles every day

      In my last few years I was lucky to work with med students, interns and residents. It was my privilege to assist in mentoring them. The majority were bright young people eager to learn their skills and very thankful for the nurses' assistance.

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      Nancy 4 weeks ago

      I loved my 40+ yrs as a career OR nurse! And I still miss it.

      My older sister had been an OR nurse. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work in an 'all RN' surgical department. As a younger nurse, I was assigned the scrub nurse duties while the more experienced nurses were assigned circulating duties. I had amazing mentors. What a great beginning for workplace flexibility for the next 40+ years.

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      Angie 4 weeks ago

      I've worked in the OR for over 25 years. First as a surgical tech. Now as a nurse. Love it love it love it.

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      Pat Petersen 4 weeks ago

      Worked in the OR for 30 years-loved it, still do and makes me proud to say it

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      Dottie Willis 4 weeks ago

      Went straight to OR from nursing school in 1976 worked there for 41 years until April of this year when a car accident left me unable to be able to perform job duties. I always felt like an advocate for the patient, after all they are in the OR teams hands when they can’t speak for themselves. It was a very gratifying job I still miss it, but not for everyone. I travel nursed for 5 years also never ceases to amaze me that there are so many ways to do the same thing! And so many names for the same instrument! You have to learn to prioritize and be organized, and to anticipate every move before the surgeon does, have everything needed for him to get procedure and outcome that they (surgeon and pt) set out to have. Now that I can’t work anymore I find myself at home putting stuff in piles for the next day’s actitivites! LOL I guess like case carts-once an OR nurse always an OR nurse. And of coarse I have many many of those memorable cases we could talk about. I took CNOR test in 1995 and am still certified till 2020. I am also an AD nurse and proud of it. Wish I could still work miss the field-anyone thinking of trying the area give it a shot-it was the only area that had an opening when I graduated in 1976 I tried it and stayed , it was a less technical time then,but I got to grow and learn new equipment as it evolved.

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      Jean RN CNOR retired 4 weeks ago

      After 43+ years as an OR nurse, I still miss the work and the staff. It is the most demanding field of nursing, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Strong backs, arms, resilience and the ability to think on your feet, read the team--know what to do in a second. Complex cases requiring special equipment, stacks & stacks of instrument trays, fluoroscopy most of the time (lead aprons, lead thyroid shields) Taking care of critical patients who are at risk during the procedure, keeping the team on task, thinking ahead (there's a lot of "what ifs" to be ready for) Making sure the equipment is ready and functioning as it should. Its a lot to know and be responsible for. That is why the orientation is so long.

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      Ava RN CNOR retired 4 weeks ago

      Worked in OR's as an RN for 42 years. It was probably a love/hate relationship, as many are but I would do it all again. You learn a lot more than most people would think-about just being human.

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      Marcia Graten Novak, CRNA 4 weeks ago

      Thank God for OR Nurses! I could have never done my job without them. OR nurse keep all of us safe. They are truly the "Jack of All Trades" and the "Masters" of everything else.This is one of the MOST honorable forms of Nursing. Too bad that OR Nursing has been deleted from Nursing school curriculum. A Nursing instructor from UT @ Austin referred to this elite group as "step a fetch it, data entry clerk" & questioned why anyone would want to enter a life of servitude. I personally heard this comment in the hospital elevator when one of her students voiced an enthusiastic vote for becoming an OR Nurse. I will always wonder what happened to the student nurse?

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      Dorie 4 weeks ago

      31 years in the OR. I was a surgical technologist for the first 6 years and a nurse for the next 25. I expect to work for 9 year before retirement. I would not work anywhere else! My specialty Open Heart Surgery.

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      Jama 4 weeks ago

      32 years in the OR. Started as Surg tech, ADN, BSN, MSN, CNOR. Staff, mid level mgmnt, Director.

      Although I changed specialties 8 yrs ago, I'll always be an OR nurse! 40 yrs in health care so far! So many changes. Fond memories, wonderful friends, doctors and of course the Patients!

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      Carolyn Pickelsimer 4 weeks ago

      I retired after 41 years in the OR...the last few being Cardiothoracic coordinator. I was at the same place for all of those 41 years. I made many friends (and a few enemies, I'm sure!) I would not trade those memories for anything! You're correct when you say the OR is not for everyone, as it takes much skill and determination to make it there. But it is so worth it!!!

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      Christina 4 weeks ago

      I was a surgical technologist for 10 years... then OR nurse for 10... tried the ICU for a few only because I want to get into anesthesia. I'm only 43. I started when I was fresh out of high school... the OR is definitely where I belong!

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      CJ, Thank you very much! Like you I miss the OR every day. As I said to Susan, if I had one wish... We used to play the Lottery as a group. Everyone said they would not come in the next day if we won. Everyone but me, lol. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      Frank, you bring up an excellent point. I used to love having the rep in the room. Teaching myself and the team new ways of doing old things. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      Susan, thanks for reading and commenting. I also miss the OR every single day! I had to retire due to some physical problems. I hate it. If I had one wish, it would be to be able to work OR again. :)

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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thanks Vicki. I also knew in nursing school that OR was where I wanted to be. Neurosurgery is always changing. It is a wonderful place to be. My favorites were Ortho and General.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      SassyOrthoChick, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love how you describe the OR! "The OR is so unique and amazing and frustrating and awesome..." You hit it on the nose. :)

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      Cj 4 weeks ago

      Your article is excellent ! I just retired from 40+ years in the OR, and I look back on many adrenaline filled days, exciting and always new like you said. But now you've made me melancholy ! My body says "no" I can't do it anymore, but my heart says I still want to be there !!! Thanks for a good article.

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      Frank 4 weeks ago

      You did not mention dealing with sales reps. Another skill you will learn. In my case I was the sales rep after I work in the OR for ten years.

      I was still able to be in the OR as a sales rep and still was part of the OR team. Very nice article.

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      Susan Williams 4 weeks ago

      Loved it for 30 years - now I miss it like crazy!

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      Vicki Geib 4 weeks ago

      I loved your article. I have worked in an OR for 41 years- the only nursing job I have ever had. I spent 6 weeks in the OR in nursing school and knew then that this was my calling. Have done neurosurgical nursing for the last 35 years.!!!

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      SassyOrthoChick 4 weeks ago

      Great article!!

      Had to retire early due to physical health issues.

      Most days, I miss it.

      The OR is so unique and amazing and frustrating and awesome and definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 4 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Betty! Nursing does keep you on your toes. I find it to be so rewarding and fun. :)

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      Betty A F 5 weeks ago from Florida

      Awesome article Kari, I knew a woman in her 80's who was a nurse for over 50 years. She was incredibly active and had more energy than most who are half her age. She was was also very sharp. I told her once that "I hope that I'm like you as I get older." She told me, "become a nurse." With everything you described, all the equipment and multitasking, and paying attention to every detail, along with serious critical thinking skills. I can see why your line of work will benefit you for the rest of your life.

      I enjoyed reading this!

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      Mary Grace Guldeman 5 weeks ago

      20yrs this yr in the OR love it!

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 6 weeks ago from Ohio

      Kimberly, Thanks for reading and commenting. I love OR. I crushed my right hand a few years ago and it no longer works well. I had to retire from OR. That is so depressing to me. I wanted to work OR till I was about 70, lol. :)

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 6 weeks ago from Ohio

      Cindy, I have also worked in all different sized OR's. I loved working in the teaching hospitals because they were always on top of the new stuff. I loved working in smaller hospitals because I had to do all specialties. I just plain love OR, lol. :)

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 6 weeks ago from Ohio

      Joyce, I, also, miss the OR every day. It was the best job ever!! My favorites were Ortho, General and Vascular. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. :)

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      Kimberly K Weldon 6 weeks ago

      Been doing it for 20 some odd years. Never gets old . I still love it. Learn something new every day even now. Will do it until I retire, hopefully in a few years.

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      Cindy 6 weeks ago

      I love OR nursing ‼️‼️ I worked in many different size OR’s for 40 years ❣️ I did try other areas of the hospital but always came back to the OR ❣️ I miss working everyday in a teaching hospital’s OR‼️ It was the best ‼️‼️

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      Joyce 6 weeks ago

      I worked in the OR for 47 years and I am retired. I worked all shifts and every day of the week. I scrubbed and circulated for most of those years. I enjoyed the challenges of the job. I enjoyed learning something new almost every day and the new equipment that made the job so much easier. I worked in almost every specialty. I especially enjoyed Trauma. I miss the OR every day and wish that I could go back, but I am way too old. The job requires a lot of strength, stamina, and tolerance for different people. I will always miss the OR.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 6 weeks ago from Ohio

      There really is no other place, Crystal. I lived for the OR. :)

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      Crystal CST, RN, CNOR 6 weeks ago

      OR 17 years. Here for Life.

    • k@ri profile image
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      Kari Poulsen 7 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Svjetlana. I love the scrub nurse role best! Blessings from America. :)

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      svjetlana 7 weeks ago

      I am scrub nurse 24 years now...Last 14 years I work as head nurse in neurosurgical operating room. I cannit imagine doing something else. Best regards from Bosnia.

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      Kari Poulsen 7 weeks ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Peg. It's a great job, but it takes a certain temperament. I loved it!! :)

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      Peg Cole 8 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      Quite an interesting range of talents and knowledge needed for this stressful and important job. I had never thought about the jewelry and the nail polish aspect of the environment. I admire the incredible dedication of anyone who takes on this demanding role. Thanks for the in depth look at OR nurses.

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      Kari Poulsen 2 months ago from Ohio

      Bill, Thank you for reading and commenting. I am sorry for the delay in my answer. It seems some of the comments on my hubs get lost for a few day.

      I never thought I could be a nurse, much less work in an OR. But that's another story. I ended up being a nurse, and loved the OR from the first time I stepped foot in it.

      The ER was exciting, but I liked cleaner, more controlled situations. That was one reason I went to the OR. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Honestly, I don't know if I could handle it or not. I am not freaked out by blood, so that would be a plus. For some reason I think the ER would bother me more than the OR, but since we'll never know, it is all conjecture. Thanks for the look into the OR, and bless you for doing it.

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      Kari Poulsen 2 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Natalie. OR nursing is a fascinating job. I loved having to learn new things every day! I also loved the pressure and excelling. I guess I am a little bit of an Adrenalin junkie. :)

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      Natalie Frank 2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      What a fascinating article! It's such a great opportunity to see things from the perspective of an actual nurse, and have opinions and actual day to day activities related first hand. Thanks for your willingness to share this information.

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      Kari Poulsen 3 months ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really do have a passion for the operating room. I'm pretty sure that everyone who works in one has passion for it. It's not something that you do because "its OK".

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      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      Way to go! I love descriptions of what people really do at work and how they like it, if at all. It's wonderful that you have a passion for your work.

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      Kari Poulsen 4 months ago from Ohio

      Forgive me for not answering some of these comments. Be assured that I am back and I will answer all future comments to the best of my abilities. :)

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      Rosie Baeke 5 months ago

      The hardest job you'll ever love!

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      Joyce 7 months ago

      An OR nurse has one patient at a time and can deliver undivided care to that patient, bringing him/her safely thru that surgical experience. Can't say that about most other areas of practice. The satisfaction of complete care is worth the challenges and drama. Now a retired nurse after 46 years in the OR.

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      Laura 7 months ago

      Great article, I remember hanging on the chic tables top bar to get it shrunk back down to doorway size when the hydraulics were going :0). Sadly there are short rotations through the OR in nursing school these days. Allot of the new grads are missing out on a great career that can fit into a better lifestyle than every other weekend on the floor.

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      Jeanne Sincavage 7 months ago

      I spend 37 years in various OR's...until I shattered my hip (complex, comminuted sub-trochanteric fx.) ten years ago. I miss it still. Your well written article brought back many fond memories! Thank you.

      Definitions of minor surgery...

      1. Surgery that's done on someone else.

      2. Surgery that's done by minor surgeons.

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      Chito 7 months ago

      Was an OR nurse for 33 years and not a regret of any kind! Got great satisfaction when the interns and residents whose hands you actually held to direct them on how to tackle the OR cases become great surgeons themselves. You show them competency and respect and they will not forget you! How about music in the OR. Worked with some terrific surgeons who only asked for 3 things - loops , light and music !!

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      Gloria Gardingan 7 months ago

      Retired . Loved OR Nurse.

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      Gail Johnson 7 months ago

      As an OR nurse of 35 years I agree. Did my OR rotation right after graduation to get it done. Well, needless to say I never left. They needed nurses and wives the rest of orientation and I stayed put till retirement.

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      Sunny 10 months ago

      I graduated from a diploma program in March 1974 at the age of 20. My first day in the OR was 3 weeks later on April 1. I retired after 37+ years and never regret a day of it. What a plethora of life skills I learned (often by fire) while scrubbing and circulating in multi-disciplined ORs. Love your write up and can really relate.

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      Sally Putnam 10 months ago

      Did it for 34 years. Floor nursing now is a breeze compared to the OR

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      Brian MacKenzie 20 year scrub nurse 10 months ago

      I said on day one if I could handle the pressure of the O.R then I would be able to handle day 45. I worked hard to make it work and have love every minute since. I have held the hand of scare patients well they are put to sleep. I have seen the look of despair on the face of love ones saying a final goodbye to someone who has passed away and is an organ transplant donour. I always say if I don't learn something new everyday then I am not doing my job. I worked the floor and will retire from the O.R. I love my job and my co-workers, I have a family I can count on day in and day out, I have friends for life and when you think that someone is not happy with you you find out that they have gone to bat for you to defend you when you might be having a bad or off day. This post is my job and I am proud to call myself a scrub nurse. Thanks K@ri! you nailed it

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      Renae Ross RNFA, CNOR 13 months ago

      Love love this article. Been in OR for 20 years and I wouldn't do anything else. It tough, fast, stressful and the best job I could ask for. I was just saying the other day we need a recruit training course, it would involve crawling around on the floor between obstacles, cords and tons of crap, finding needles in a haystack.... literally, rolling stretchers though an obstacle course, drinking and holding your bladder timed course.... and I could go on and on....

      Thank you for writing this.... you nailed it.

      Renae

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      Pavla 13 months ago

      I've been an OR nurse for 10+ years. I love what I do. It's very rewarding and interesting. There is a lot less abusive behavior if you work in pediatrics.

      Great article and it's spot on. Thank you for the read!

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      Carole Woods 13 months ago

      God bless nurses!!!! I could never be one.

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      Charlie 13 months ago

      I was an LPN back in the early 70's and was trained on the job in the OR in a small rural hospital. Back then we did it all. Cleaned the rooms and mopped the floors in between cases. Had great mentors and scary doctors. As I was scrubbed for the scariest doctor he yelled "Give me the God dam mallet! Being very shy and young I responded, "Here's your God dam mallet"! He chuckled and became a perfect gentleman after that. After 2 years of experience, I had to move away with my husband and was able to get a job anywhere we went. We arrived in an area where they did not hire techs so after having three children I went back to school to get my RN and was immediately hired in the OR. The love of my life! Cardio-Thoracic surgery. Heart Transplants, ruptured aortas, traumas. Everybody coming together to save a life. Chaos, hearts pounding, doctors screaming, running, staying focused with many positive outcomes and crying for those we couldn't save. It's been 44 years! I have donned scrubs with pride. I now do Medical/Surgical trips to 3rd World countries. Oh how everyone should see the advantages of the technology here and appreciate what we have for 3rd World countries have virtually nothing compared to what we have. Soaking surgical instruments in Cidex for not enough power for there was no autoclave. Using instruments that a doctor would just toss away because it was not shiny or dated back to 20 years ago. Helping the under privelegded with my skills has been so rewarding and the best news is that all patients had positive outcomes due to the efforts and coordination of a skilled team who put their patients first. My only advice to OR Circulating nurses today is to HOLD their patient's hand while they are being put to sleep. I have seen nurses stand at the back of the room or on the computer while their patient is being put to sleep and that makes me crazy. I was a patient having a brain tumor removed and I can't tell you how peaceful it was when a sweet young nurse came over and held my hand before I fell asleep and the comfort I felt knowing someone cared enough and took the time to take care of my emotional needs as well as my surgical needs. So OR Nurses, HOLD your patient's hand. Your scrub nurse can wait unless it is an urgent situation. We always had music and laughed when it was appropriate for it was a great stress buster. Anyone with OR experience can go anywhere. We are in demand. Thanks for the article.

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      kevisc 14 months ago

      Hi guys. I'm Jay. 23 years old. I just started my OR journey this week and to be honest, I'm quite excited, nervous and anxious at the same time. I don't have any floor/unit experience prior to entering OR that's why I'm hesitant at first but OR is my dream specialty area since i was a student. I'm always excited every time i enter the OR and always looking forward to the cases i'm going to handle. Right now, we're still having our orientation with my new colleagues. I know being an OR nurse is hard and you must be mentally, physically and emotionally fit and I would love to learn everything, i mean everything from the toughest operation to the tiniest instrument known.

      Being inexperienced is maybe my hindrance right now in pursuing this dream but My Love for OR i greater and i'm very much looking forward in working with surgeons, anesthesiologist, technicians and co nurses.

      Also I just want to ask for advice from you guys because as i was reading the comments section, lots of people are experienced in this field. I would really be thankful

      -ciao

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      Pat 17 months ago

      I've been in the OR for 48 years- 7 as a tech the rest as a nurse/manager/director and now back to my love...nurse. You either love it or hate it..not much in between I wouldn't trade for any other area!!

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      ann jones 19 months ago

      Retired OR nuse. I always told others that you either love it and thrive in the OR or you don't . And generally find out very quickly !

      The most important "life lesson" I learned was to always be courteous and kind to team members as you, if not today , but, count on it, one day you will need them!! They will bail you out on call one night when you can't stand for another minute, find the instrument the doc is screaming for, or just walk in and relieve you so you can pee!!

      God bless all OR staffs.

      Best fun, greatest laughs, and best friends in my world .

      Love your post

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      Elmer Speer 23 months ago

      I was an OR nurse for 30 years. Sometimes being the only male was an interesting challenge. I would not trade a day of my experience with any of the team members I worked with. They were all terrific. I am blessed because of all of them.

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      mimi 2 years ago

      I accepted a position in the OR a week ago and I start at the end of the month (my current floor insists I complete the current schedule). Since I have a little time to kill are there any resources (books, organizations, etc) you would recommend so I can get started with learning for the transition from med-surg to OR?

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      Kari Poulsen 3 years ago from Ohio

      Took me one day observing as a student to know I was made for it! :)

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      Kari Poulsen 3 years ago from Ohio

      Team is EVERYTHING in the OR!

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      Kari Poulsen 3 years ago from Ohio

      I don't know many OR nurses in it for the money. There is no amount that can compensate for missing Christmas morning with your children. However, despite the cons, it is an endlessly rewarding and stimulating profession.

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