Amira talks us through the struggles she faced as new Scrub Nurse and shares tips on how you can cope with challenges that you face.
When I first joined theatres, I did face quite a few challenges not only was a newly qualified Nurse but it was also my first time in theatres. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. One of the main challenges I faced was lack of knowledge. I had my general Nursing knowledge but I had no knowledge on theatres whatsoever. I always felt out of place.
It was can be very overwhelming coming into a new field of Nursing that you have never experienced. I had to learn all these instruments that I had never seen before and the names just never seemed to stick in my head. In addition to this, as new starters we were on rotation. This meant that we were rotating between theatres (emergencies, ENT, laparoscopic, trauma and orthopaedic).
On your rotation you’re also constantly introduced to new trays with different instruments so you feel like you’re constantly trying to learn names of instruments. However, the more I used the trays the more comfortable I got and then learnt the names. Knowing names of instruments isn’t vital, as long as you know what the instrument is used for, you’ll be fine. For example, if you know what surgery you’ll be doing you can kind of put your instruments in order of what you’ll be using. In every surgery, you know you’ll need a blade, forceps and scissors. You also will most likely need monopolar/bipolar and suction, but with experience you will know what you need to have ready.
Knowledge only comes with experience, there’s no point beating yourself up about not knowing instrument names as most of the time surgeons will call the instruments a completely different name. To overcome this, I also tried to circulate as much as I could. This way you’re able to learn about sutures, where to plug in things like suction or diathermy and you’re able to observe the procedure and watch what instruments are used.
Another thing I personally struggled with was the lack of patient contact. I trained as an adult Nurse mostly on wards therefore I was used to constantly talking to my patients and even their visitors. It was like a culture shock once I came to theatres as all of our patients are anaesthetised therefore are asleep when we see them.
However, if you are in a ODP (anaesthetics role) or recovery role you have a lot more patient contact and are able to interact with patients.
Linking on to this, I also struggled when I first started as I wasn’t used to working with children (I currently work in a children’s hospital). At the time I was a new mum and had a 10-month-old baby. Therefore, I used to really struggle when hearing children/babies crying. Often times patients cry in the anaesthetic room as they don’t know what’s happening or if they do know what’s happening and they’re scared.
Often, most of our patients also cry when they’re being woken up (emergence from anaesthesia). In addition to this, sometimes we do have vulnerable patients who come from difficult backgrounds; this would sometimes overwhelm me. As a new mum, I just couldn’t imagine what these kids would go through and at times it would get to me. It is difficult at times when dealing with these kinds of patients because as a Nurse you do care for your patients.
Even as humans we end up feeling empathy towards others especially when we see that they’re in a difficult position. I think in any Nursing role, you have to have thick skin as there’ll be vulnerable patients wherever you work. As a Nurse all you can do in this situation is record anything you witness in your notes and escalate any of your concerns. Sometimes this is the most we can do and even though you want to do more.
The other thing I struggled with was how different the theatre environment was to wards. I always expected a big change but not this big. In theatres you never know how heavy your case load will be even which theatre you’ll be in. Sometimes you are moved out of your home theatre and placed else where due to staff sickness/annual leave. This can be daunting as you may not be as familiar with certain surgeries as you are with others.
Especially during the pandemic, we weren’t doing many elective cases and were mainly focusing on emergencies or trauma cases. Therefore, we were seeing a lot more complex cases but we had a lighter case load. However, now that we are post pandemic, we have started our elective cases back up and are having heavier caseloads. I guess this is nice as everyday is different however it was something I wasn’t used to. During placements, I got used the ward routine of having 8/12 patients of my own and doing usual ward Nurse duties.
The routine is completely different in theatres as in the morning we have team brief with the MDT and then we start on working our way through the list. Whereas on the wards, I was used patients waking up, having their breakfast, their morning meds and seeing if they were up to having a wash and getting out of bed.
No matter what field of Nursing you’re in, you will always have struggles. I absolutely love my role as a scrub Nurse yet I still have struggles. For example, I struggle when I’m put in a theatre, I’m not used to working in. You will have good and bad days wherever you go. It’s how you deal with them is what is important.
You cannot let your struggles define you, you will learn how to overcome them. Like I said, with experience comes knowledge. All you can do is put yourself out there and try absorbing as much knowledge as you can. Ask questions no matter how silly they sound; your colleagues will understand as they were once in that same position too.