Authorized Personnel Only

8 May

Two of my favorite surgeonsHappy Nurse’s Week!  Most of you know that I spent 11 years at Texas Children’s Hospital as a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room.  I “retired” last summer in order to prepare for our move to San Antonio, and now I’m staying home full-time with the youngun.


I notice that any time I tell people that I worked in the OR I get a gasp, or a look of surprise, or an “ew, yuck”.  Truth be told, I’m sure it’s like any other job that you do every day.  You certainly don’t think about the fact that you’re looking at somebody’s innards all day long!  You just do your job, hopefully very well. 



Anyhoo, I thought y’all might have some burning questions about what goes on behind those doors.  Anything you’ve always wanted to know??


17 Responses to “Authorized Personnel Only”

  1. Kregg Daley May 9, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t know how you did it, innards are really unsettling. Did you ever touch an innard?

  2. Kelly @ Love Well May 9, 2008 at 10:26 am #

    I’ve always wondered about the tone in the OR. Relaxed? Tense? All-business? Fun? Did it depend on how the surgery was going?

  3. meg May 9, 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    My best friend in NH is an anestieologist. I was at first shocked when I would get phone calls or emails from her from the OR.

  4. kathrynsmoore May 9, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Kregg: Yes, I touched a lot of innards. I love to scrub (pass the instruments) and we would often get our hands into the incision. Probably the grossest would be big giant tumors that we would remove. Yucky for us, but great for the patient, because who wants a big giant tumor in their belly??

    Kelly: The tone definitely depends on what procedure is being done and the personalities of the staff in the room. We had some rooms that were all-day parties, and others that were totally silent no matter what. (Of course, I preferred the party rooms!) I knew a couple of surgeons that could be in the middle of telling a joke, pause to ask for something, and then resume the joke without losing the timing. We also frequently listened to music…sometimes really loud, which drove me crazy. I was notorious for turning down the music in my room, because I figured the patient would appreciate it if I could actually hear what was going on!!

    Meg: My husband was really bothered at first when he would hear music or beeping in the background. He always knew that I might have to hang up on him without notice. For the most part I don’t like to be on the phone in the OR, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

  5. Julie May 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    Okay, so this is not really an OR specific question, but more of a medical inquiry…Do you buy the generic brands of kids meds? I never know whether to buy the name brand infant or children’s tylenol, motrin, benadryl, etc. or save a few bucks and go for the generic. It’s a frequent point of “discussion” in our house! Love to hear a nurse’s perspective!

  6. kathrynsmoore May 12, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    Julie, I buy generic. And we use generic prescription meds when available. It’s all just too expensive!!

  7. gunny93 May 12, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    Just looking at the top picture and imagining open wounds, etc.

    … uh … I’m getting more than a bit queasy.

    Praise be to God there are people out there like yourself who can endure for the benefit of the rest of us.

  8. jvalways May 12, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    APO, as in “Alias?”

  9. Rachel May 12, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    Not so much a question…but, thank you. I have been in and out of hospitals quite a bit in the past few years and I’ve always been thankful for nurses. They are incredible and have made my visits so much better. We need more people like you in the world.

  10. Patrick May 13, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    What happens when a mistake is made? Does everyone agree to keep silent until the inquiry or do you tell the patient (or his family if he doesn’t make it)?

    Have you ever had a patient not fully go under and after he wakes up he tells you that he felt and heard everything?

  11. kathrynsmoore May 13, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Patrick – It is very, very rare that a patient has awareness during surgery. It is common for the patient to remember counting down to go to sleep, and then feeling like he is immediately waking up, even though hours may have passed. Sometimes patients remember the breathing tube being pulled from their throat. (I hear people talking about this alot.) But generally memories of surgery are hazy at best. Here’s a link to the American Society of Anesthesiologists page on Patient Awareness:

    Now, for your other question. Surgeons and nurses are human, thus, errors will occur. We have layer upon layer of safeguards in place in the OR to prevent these events, but sometimes all the best practices can’t prevent a mistake. Our policy called for honesty with families. The surgeon generally explained what happened, and what we had done about it. The good news is, it’s rare for these errors to result in harm to the patient. It stinks, no doubt about it, and I spent a good deal of my time at the hospital working on policies and procedures to prevent mistakes.

  12. runlikemad May 14, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Can you stand to watch shows like ER or Grey’s Anatomy without screaming at the TV, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”

  13. kathrynsmoore May 14, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    Hello runlikemad! Thanks for tuning in! To answer your question, I can’t stand watching Grey’s Anatomy. The whole thing is so unrealistic it drives me crazy. I’ve tried to watch it twice, and both times I had to turn it off. It’s little stuff, like the cases the interns were doing, or how they leave their mask down when they enter the OR. And it’s a total bummer because I think Patrick Dempsey is YU-UH-MMY!! I used to watch ER, because that was a setting I was unfamiliar with, so it didn’t bother me as much. But I quit it years ago.

  14. T May 20, 2008 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks for your wonderful answers about our behind-the-scenes life, Katy! You’re so gracious and articulate.

  15. runlikemad May 21, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    It’s my favorite question to ask of anyone who’s working in a profession that has been turned into a tv and/or reality show.

    I went through 2.5 years of school for my Bachelors, and I’ll clock 2 years of employment before I can take the test to call myself an “Interior Designer” – all those shows on HGTV and TLC have people title-dropping like it’s nothing but most of them don’t have the background, or the license, to truly call themselves designers.

    I thank Grey’s for teaching me the rankings within a hospital – do they at least have that right? Intern – Resident – Attending?

  16. kathrynsmoore May 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    The true rankings in a teaching hospital are as follows, from bottom to top:

    Med Student
    Intern (1st year of residency)
    Resident (length of residency depends on specialty)
    Chief Resident (optional)
    Fellow (further specialization)

  17. runlikemad May 21, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    They’re at least close on that… they don’t show Med Students, but they do have Interns, Residents, a Cheif Resident, they’ve talked about Fellows, and Attendings.

    It would be nice if someone came in the hospital with a good ol fashioned sore throat once in a while instead of “help, i’m being impaled by this big metal rod and by the way, the rod is stuck in him too”

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