Although the term surgical nurse makes most people think of an operating room (OR), surgical nurses spend most of their time outside of the OR. Surgical nurses care for patients during what is known as the perioperative period, the time before, during and after surgery.
Prior to surgery, nurses assess the patient and help determine what the patient needs before he/she goes to the operating room. Blood work is drawn from the patient to determine whether pre-operative blood transfusions, IV fluids or medications are needed. Regardless of the patient’s history, most have a pre-surgery screening that involves type cross and antibody screen of blood in case they need a transfusion before, during or after the surgery, electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, as well as the aforementioned blood work. The nurse will usually receive orders to insert a Foley catheter so the patient’s intake and output can be accurately measured during and after surgery, as well as an IV that is at least an 18-gauge, if possible, in a reliable vein in case emergency medications or blood need to be given.
During surgery, nurses are an invaluable member of the surgical team. Surgical nurses are some of the only nurses in the hospital who are ever “on call” during certain hours, as there are some emergency surgeries during the night when the operating room isn’t staffed. Some nurses are assigned to one operating room to carry out routine duties, while other nurses “float” between operating rooms to deliver IV fluids, run errands or to just be available for whatever might be needed. Nurses take part along with surgical technicians in counting surgical supplies so that everything is accounted for after the patient’s surgery is over.
After surgery, nurses carry out orders from the physician to give post-operative antibiotics, blood or medications that are needed for the patient’s recovery. Nurses examine post operative blood work and report any critical or abnormal values to the physician. One of the most important functions of the surgical nurse during the post-operative period is to educate the patient prior to discharge. The patient may need to take certain medications after they go home and may have questions about this new medication. Nurses educate patients on how to care for any wounds they may have, as well as when to return to the doctor for their follow-up appointments.
Surgical nursing can be very exciting and is a very sought-after specialty. This specialty offers something fun, new and ever-changing. While the nursing profession as a whole is very rewarding, surgical nurses get to see results very quickly, as patients come in with a problem and the nurse gets to see them, at the very least, beginning to recover when they are discharged.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or email@example.com.