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OR nursing is different from floor nursing in many ways. The job is very technical and requires planning for surgical procedures with a variety of skills. Here are a few ways to know if you are an OR nurse:

  1. You bend over to pick something up and everything falls out of your scrub pocket.

OR nurses don’t keep much in their pockets except the essentials: pens, scissors, cell phone. Scrub pockets can be very loose and the minute you bend over to move cords around, suddenly everything from your pocket falls all over the grimey floor!

  1. You are incredible at hearing someone’s voice in a crowded room.

Surgeons have a way of asking for something that surgical nurses are trained to hear, even in a crowded OR with machines beeping and numerous conversations taking place. It’s a challenging skill that takes time to master.

  1. You can anticipate people’s needs before they verbalize them.

After circulating the same procedure year after year, OR nurses can anticipate the steps of surgery in accurate detail. This allows them to anticipate what a surgical team will need, sometimes before they are even asked.

  1. You can manage your fluids down to the ounces to prevent going to the bathroom during a 12-hour shift.

Surgical procedures can last only a few minutes or up to several hours. OR nurses are required to stay in the OR with their patients and must request relief to use the bathroom. This leads to an innate ability to manage how many drinks are consumed before and during a long shift to prevent asking for multiple bathroom breaks.

  1. You talk about patients by the surgical procedure.

“What did you do today?” says one OR nurse. “I had a crani, a lap chole, and a wash out,” says the other OR nurse. OR nurses strive to take the best care of patients but only have a few short minutes with them while they are awake for most procedures. Most of the care for the patient revolves around planning and preparing for the surgical procedure, which leads to everyday conversations being discussed as to which surgical procedures were performed.

  1. You tie people up or ask others to tie someone up.

When the surgical team or scrub personnel scrub their hands for surgery, they enter the OR and put on a sterile gown. The gown has ties in the back that must be secured by a non-sterile person, also known as the circulating nurse. If the OR nurse is busy, they might ask someone else to “tie up the surgeon.”

  1. While eating, you can talk about stinky and gross things you have dealt with as a nurse.

During surgery there are a variety of sights and smells that can be quite unsightly. At any time during meals, OR nurses can discuss the smells that made their stomachs turn and wounds that would leave most people unable to continue eating. 

A day in the life of an OR nurse is filled with excitement and intensity! Interested in becoming an OR nurse? You can find out more at AORN or through other articles here on the blog! Have any of your own suggestions to add to this list? Comment below with what makes YOU an OR Nurse.

Until next time…

Nurse Splane

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