If you’re a new operating theatre nurse – or you’re thinking of starting a new role – in this post we’ll discuss some ways you can make the most of your learning and become a valued and integral member of the theatre team.
What Does an Operating Theatre Nurse Do?
Operating theatre nurses – sometimes known as perioperative nurses – provide skilled care and support during each stage of a patient’s operating theatre treatment. As part of the larger operating theatre team, operating theatre nurses work in the theatre itself, as well as the anaesthetic and recovery areas. You may also provide some care and support in wards, clinics, and other specialist areas.
Over the course of your working day, you will either focus on one area, or rotate through several.
Understanding your responsibilities is key to your success in your role. So let’s take a look at what your main responsibilities will be throughout the patient’s perioperative care.
You’ll ensure the patient knows as much as possible about their procedure, including why it’s happening, the intended outcome, and the possible risks they’ll face. You’ll give the patient an opportunity to ask questions, and you’ll ensure that they’re healthy enough for surgery.
This preparation will reduce the risks of later cancellations, which will waste resources and slow the entire department down.
You’ll support the anaesthetist through preparing all the necessary equipment and drugs. The operating theatre nurse is also responsible for conducting the final assessment of the patient immediately before their surgery.
Operating theatre nurses will work a number of roles throughout the surgical procedure. These might include:
- Preparing and supervising the surgical instruments and equipment.
- Providing the surgeon with equipment and materials as required, including needles, swabs, and surgical instruments.
- Acting as a link between the surgical team and the wider operating theatre and hospital.
Recovery and Final Assessment
Once the patient arrives at the post anaesthetic care unit, you’ll monitor their condition and provide any care and support they might need. You’ll also conduct the patient’s final assessment before discharging them back to a ward.
Other Roles and Responsibilities of Operating Theatre Nurses
As you develop in your role, you may take on additional roles and responsibilities. These may include:
- Organising the workload between the whole perioperative nurse team.
- General administrative duties.
- Overseeing the supply of consumable items and managing your department’s purchasing budget.
- Providing teaching, training and support to new operating theatre nurses.
What Skills Does an Operating Theatre Nurse Need?
- You must be highly organised with an ability to stay flexible in your role and prioritise your work effectively. Operating theatre nurses need to anticipate the needs of other members of the surgical team, so you need to be able to think on your feet.
- As you’ll be working closely with both patients and the rest of the operating theatre team, good interpersonal skills are a must. You must be compassionate and comforting for the patients, but steadfast and reliable for the surgical team.
- Operating theatre nurses work long shifts, and some surgical procedures can take hours. So you’ll need good stamina, and the ability to retain your focus for long periods.
- Operating theatres are confined, high-pressure spaces. The team’s depending on you. You must be able to keep your cool when working in difficult circumstances, reacting quickly, calmly and effectively to emergencies.
Tips For New Theatre Nurses
- Make the most of your training. Senior perioperative nurses will provide on-the-job training and support. Listen carefully, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to discuss your progress regularly. Also be sure to talk to any other junior members of the team. They’ll be happy to support you, and you can support them right back.
- Be kind to yourself. You’ll probably find your role overwhelming at first, because operating theatres can be overwhelming environments. Be patient with yourself, and don’t expect to be able to excel in your role immediately. It will take you some time to adjust, but you’ll get there.
- Meet the team. The sooner you understand who everyone else is and what their key responsibilities are, the sooner you can provide the support they need, when they need it. Operating theatre teams are big. So again, this will be overwhelming at first. But once more, you’ll get there in the end. Read this essential introduction to who you can expect to meet on your first day as an operating theatre nurse.
One thing you’ll quickly learn is this: In the operating theatre, the smallest thing can make a huge difference.
For example, absorbent floor mats can collect all excess fluid during a procedure. And following procedures, you can simply pick them up and discard them.
This might not sound like much, but it means you’ll spend less time mopping between procedures, which will improve health and safety standards while also significantly cutting down on turnaround times.