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Nursing Internship in OR: What to REALLY Expect?

Operating Room   (16,180 Views 8 Comments)
by elb252 elb252 (Member) Member

elb252 specializes in Geriatrics, LTC.

3,143 Profile Views; 75 Posts

Hello to all of you OR nurse experts: :coollook:

I'm an undergraduate nursing student who just accepted a student nurse internship in the operating room at a university medical center. Needless to say, I'm extremely thrilled about the internship opportunity as OR nursing has been an interest of mine throughout nursing school. I've even taken the time to watch different surgical procedures on YouTube because I think surgeries are fascinating...

But enough about me. I feel as though I'm so excited about the opportunity but I'm not entirely sure what to expect. This is what I DO know about the OR:

a) It can get very chaotic...you must be able to be a busy-body and handle high-stress situations.

b) More than anything, there's teamwork involved between the surgeons, nurses, perfusionists, etc.

c) You do not know your patients as well as you would in comparison to, for instance, a floor nurse.

So this is what I'm asking: Aside from what I do know about the OR, is there anything else as a student nurse I should be prepared for? Any tips/suggestions about making the best of my ten-week summer program would be greatly appreciated (I imagine this will be GREATLY different from clinicals). Thank you so much. :wink2:

~ Erika

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Fun2 is a BSN, RN and specializes in Operating Room.

5,586 Posts; 16,210 Profile Views

There's really nothing that can prepare you. A good internship will teach you all the basics, and you learn as you go....forever. :)

Is the 10 week summer program your job's internship time????

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elb252 specializes in Geriatrics, LTC.

75 Posts; 3,143 Profile Views

Yeah it's a full-time summer internship for 10 weeks exactly...great opportunity and enough time to get my foot in the door. Would you recommend that I work in med/surg or ICU first for a few years (in the same institution I'm working for my internship) once I graduate, or go directly on the pathway that'll take me to OR nursing?

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Rose_Queen is a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in OR, education.

4 Followers; 4 Articles; 8,778 Posts; 103,740 Profile Views

As a student nurse, most likely you will be mostly doing observation. We don't even allow our GNs to count instruments, as the policy states that it must be an RN. You might be allowed to help position and prep, and depending where you are in clinical, put in foleys. We also don't allow nurse externs to do any kind of documentation, as it's all computerized and takes a good while to learn the system.

As for going straight to the OR vs med/surg, you'll hear conflicting opinions. My personal opinion is that if you know you want to work in the OR, then go for it. Most nurses who work in the OR never leave- in the 4 yrs I've worked in my current position, I've never moved up in seniority because those above me plan to stay until retirement. Either you'll love it or you'll hate it, and at least with a 10 week internship, you'll get a taste of what it's like.

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elb252 specializes in Geriatrics, LTC.

75 Posts; 3,143 Profile Views

I actually spent already a 6-hour day shadowing the OR as a make-up clinical. One of my professors arranged it for me at the hospital she works. I have to say that I absolutely loved just asking questions and watching the surgery.

But as a junior student going into her senior year (and with more clinicals under my belt), I was was sort of hoping to be able to do more than just observe. I'll make the best of it though, and I do appreciate your honesty.

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DMCRN specializes in Operating Room.

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I've been interning as a student nurse in the OR for the past 8 months and I love it. I'm not sure what you will be doing in your internship but I have mostly been focusing on learning to scrub (like a surgical tech) since I can learn to circulate when I become an RN. I've scrubbed many different cases in my internship and it's been awesome,hopefully that's what you'll be doing but most in most internships you don't get to do that, especially not in 10 weeks. Either way some good advice would be to learn as much as you can about surgery in this time by asking questions, most surgeons like teaching and will be very helpful as well as the RNs and surg techs. Im sure you read that the OR has alot of strong personalities so its a really good idea to not rub anyone the wrong way. You definately have to be thick skinned in the OR and be able to take constructive criticism without getting offended. When you first start you will feel so overwhelmed bc alot of what you learn in school doesn't help much in the OR and it's completely different than the floors. It's very technical and there is ALOT of equipment...it took me forver to learn just the basic instruments. If you have any more questions let me know...congrats!

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Heogog53 has 25 years experience and specializes in CCU, OR.

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You will first be told where to stand. You will be regarded as "sort of a hostile bug" until you demonstrated to the staff, etc that you can stay away from the sterile fields. EVERYONE, whether with experience or not, is regarded in that way at first. After you demonstrate that you can indeed do that, you'll mostly observe, but you may end up doing small things to help out your circulator, such as knowing where the blanket warmer is, getting warm sterile fluid, getting warm blankets for the patient, helping put the safety strap on, etc. They may be "small" things, but they are the same kind of baby steps we all took. You may not be allowed to do anything else, because legally, you aren't a surgical tech nor are you a registered nurse.

You can follow your circulator and find out what questions are asked, what's important to look for in the chart,and depending on the size of the hospital you'll be at, you'll discover that you can pack a great deal of human contact into the short time you have with a patient and their families.

Or you can watch as the scrub(whether tech or RN) sets up their mayo and back tables.

If you are interested and willing to help plus can follow directions, even if you don't get to do much, you'll learn a great deal by just being there.

You'll learn about how each surgery has a rhythym of it's own, what sort things all surgeries have in common, and that the job of circulating or scrubbing both have definite roles; when one is busiest, the other one may have slowed down, and vice versa. There is a introduction, a first, second and third acts and the grand finale. Each and every case has that.

So, don't worry because you will mostly be observing;you'll also be absorbing a tremendous amount of knowledge. Don't be afraid to ask questions(although sometimes some folks may not be the best teachers), because that's how you learn.

If after this 10 week internship you decide that this is what you want to do, then head for the OR right from school. The OR is a love it or hate it place. If you love it, then no place else will suit you. If you hate it, you'll figure it out quickly, and then I bet you'd go into critical care after school. IF the nurse residency program requires time as a nurse outside of the OR, do critical care; the OR, despite what everyone seems to think, is a critical care unit.

hope this helps

Contact me if you have more questions,

Helga

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Heogog53 has 25 years experience and specializes in CCU, OR.

200 Posts; 4,289 Profile Views

Forgot something; every new person you work with will have a different attitude towards you. Most will tell you how they do things- and there will be difference between them...accept whatever answers they give you if it gets the job done anyway. We all do things slightly differently and in each specialty, there can be differences in emphasis of things; neuro, plastics, ortho; positioning is a big deal relative to general or gyn; usually those patients are lying on their back or up in stirrups.

Take everyone's information in, and find what commonalities you can between practices.

Most of all, since it's not like anywhere else, don't get freaked out by all the brand new stuff and the weird technologies; it's hard to keep up with them if you have been in the OR for awhile; thinks change that quickly.

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