Sitting in the hospital cafeteria at lunch this past Wednesday, I breached the subject of spirituality in the operating room. My company: two surgical assistants (like nursing assistants) and a chaplain. The conversation started with one of the surgical assistants recalling a “Hand Blessing” the chaplains used to do in different hospital departments. The blessing was, in essence, focusing on the hands that do the healing, compassionate, God-given service of patient care. He wanted the chaplains to come back to our department and bless everyone’s hands. This was a tender moment that unlatched a door that was evidently ready to be kicked wide open.
Though I’m relatively a newcomer to the operating room environment, it didn’t take long for me to see how quickly one can become desensitized to other human experiences. Everyday, I see patients at their most vulnerable moments – literally and figuratively. Whether it’s a middle aged man getting major spine surgery or a young lady getting her gallbladder removed, the patient is told by the doctors what to expect from the surgery and is placed in a thin hospital gown on an uncomfortable operating table and strapped into placed and covered in a few layers of blankets.
Though I haven’t been a surgical patient (and I don’t intend to be one anytime soon), I know these patients are overcome by fear and uncertainty, seeking reassurance, and depending on someone else who has more insight to tell them, “It’s okay to be scared. I’m here for you.”
And while we’re so busy hustling to ensure we take the best care of our patients, I notice we often forget how to take care of our coworkers. I hear coworkers snap at each other, voices ring across the overhead loud speaker to complete tasks and get ready for the next surgery, “get me the microscope” or “bring me the cast cart” without a “please” or “thank you.” Yes, it is our job to do the things that move the surgeries along, but it is also our job to do these things with kindness, otherwise we might as well be robots.
Over the past year, I have found it difficult to maintain a sense of serenity amidst the sometimes harshness and pressure of the operating room environment. So when tasks or personalities become seemingly intolerable, I must return to the fact that I am grateful to even have a job (and a meaningful one at that), I enjoy most of the people I work with (yes, even the doctors), and most of all, I get the chance every day to interact with patients and work toward becoming the nurse I would want if I were in their shoes.