The medical field can be an extremely rewarding career option. For those of us who like to help people on a real, meaningful level (how much more helpful of a job can you have than saving lives?), the medical field is often the place to turn. Nursing is a very viable option for those who want to assist doctors or surgeons and have a real impact on people’s lives and health. Being a surgical nurse is an exciting sub-specialty as it is filled with action and you get to assist in many procedures that either save or improve lives. If you have chosen this field and are getting close to graduating or have just secured your first position as a surgical nurse, here are some things to keep in mind:
Stay Calm. As you enter your new career, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, panicky, frightened and in over your head. This can be the case in any new career, but is especially a factor in medicine as each day can honestly mean life or death for those you help. However, panic is never your friend, especially in the Operating Room (OR)! Even if you’ve realized you’ve made a mistake, your personal protective equipment is wet, or you don’t understand what directions the surgeon is giving you, staying calm will always be your best bet to understand the steps you need to take to resolve the situation.
Document Everything. Charts are your friend! Document everything you do, not only so you will get credit for your hard work, but because you (and others) may need to refer back to them at a later point. Even if you think it’s unimportant, document it. Over-documentation is always better than missing something that proves to be crucial down the road.
It’s Ok to Have Emotions. There is often an impression that surgeons, doctors, and nurses need to remain (or at least appear) emotionless to get the job done. However, you are only human and sometimes you need to laugh, sometimes you need to cry and sometimes you need to get angry. Though you need to keep your emotions under control in the OR so you can do your job, realize that this is a highly emotional field and sometimes sharing those feelings with co-workers or even patients is natural and can help you deal with the stressful situations you will certainly encounter.
Be a Team Player. Work with your fellow nurses and think of yourself as part of a team. This helps create rapport with more experienced nurses and they will be more likely to help you learn the ropes. Small gestures can make a big difference, so look for ways you can help out your fellow nurses and they will likely return the favor.
Stick with it for at Least a Year. You’ve gone through a lot of education, effort and money to become a surgical nurse. Even if you start your first job and think you hate it, stick with it. If months go by and you still hate it, consider it might be the place you are working and not necessarily the career itself. Consider changing where you work before you decide to get out of the field altogether. The first year will be overwhelming with everything you need to learn and deal with, but if it turns out to be something you love, it will be well worth it!
Becoming a nurse is truly a life-changing experience. Remember to stay calm, stick with it and view each day not only as a chance to improve someone’s life, but also a chance to learn and grow in your new role.