Working in the OR with IBS


Hi everyone!

I wasn't sure whether to put this in the nurses with disabilities forum or here but, I chose here since you all work in the OR and can probably answer my question better.

I am going to be attending school to become a surgical technician. While I am excited by this I am also full of anxiety because I suffer from IBS. I've dealt with it for 12 years now and I do have it under control but every now and again it hits me and if I don't get to a toilet soon well there's just no stopping it. It hasn't interrupted my work before now but, then again I've always had access to a bathroom or would just be able to excuse myself from the situation should it come about.

I just have no idea what would happen if I was in the middle of the surgery and I had to go. I would die on the spot if I had an accident right there in the sterile field! :crying2:

I'm sure there are surgeons, nurses, techs and everyone else who plays a role in the OR who suffers from this and I just want to know how it is dealt with? I posted this question on a surg tech forum and one told me I should wear a brief and another berated me for even choosing this career when I knew I had this problem.:mad: As I said it's under control and I only 'flare up' a few times a year and I'm NOT going to let this stand in the way of my dream job.

So any advice would be great.:redbeathe


323 Posts

Well, I can only tell you this, it has been my experience that I don't always get out of a room when I need to "go"... whether you had IBS or not..sometimes there just isn't anyone to break you. Now, I am a RN Circulator and I won't scrub because I take b/p meds and sometimes I have to run literally..

It's a tough decision and personally if it were me I would be looking into something else. How embarassing can it be to not be able to get out when you need to...

Have you considered other area's like Ultrasound? There are other areas in the Healthcare arena that are a little more forgiving...

Good luck to you..

GadgetRN71, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,840 Posts

Specializes in Operating Room. Has 17 years experience.

It would depend how controlled and how bad your IBS is. I have it but I mainly circulate. I know what my trigger foods are and most of the time I can call out to the desk and they'll send someone to cover for a few minutes.

There's no real concrete answer unfortunately..

Specializes in Peri-op/Sub-Acute ANP.

I have Crohn's Disease and work in an OR. It's not always easy, in fact there are times when it can be a real problem, but on the whole I have things fairly well under control for most of the time. That's the good news. Now the not so good news. I had to stop scrubbing entirely. It just isn't possible to break scrub as easily as it is for a circulator to step away. Once the case is up and running I can ask someone to step into the room for a few minutes and cover in case the surgeon needs anything. Heck, the circulating nurse is in and out of the room anyway fetching instruments and other items that the team needs. As a member of the sterile field it isn't as easy to step away. I wish I could tell you differently, but there is going to be little tolerance for you breaking scrub in the middle of a tricky case.

Also, even though you are well controlled now you have to also consider how stress is going to affect your system. For many people, ibs problems are compounded by extreme stressors. As a new tech, and even as an experienced tech, you are going to be in the hot seat and you may find that you're symptoms are not as well regulated as they could be.

I hate to put a downer on your dream, but it may be a difficult route for you. I know the other forum that you posted on and I'm sorry that you felt like people berated you. I certainly don't mean to put you down, but if you continue to pursue this career I think you should understand the environment in the OR can be less than sympathetic to such things. Just trying to make sure you continue with your eyes open.

Of course, you could always work in a surgery center that specializes in shorter cases such as ENT or something. You would still need to get through your clinicals at school, but if you could get through that you may be able to find a niche in a doctor's office or something rather than a larger OR that routinely has more lengthy cases.

I wish you luck in whatever you decide.


9 Posts

The other thing to consider is that if you only flare up a couple times a year, the chances of them being during a long case is pretty slim. If it starts before the case does you can just go off sick, or switch to circulating.

I work in a small hospital with no ER; with no critical cases the worst that would happen if a nurse broke scrub is the surgeon might get peeved by the delay.

The point about stress is a very interesting one. I definitely agree that you may need to take additional measures when you first start to keep things under control during that stress, but on the other hand if this really does turn out to be your dream job you might find that the condition resolves even further.

It won't be easy, but if you are certain this is what you want to do, then as others have mentioned looking at the workplace you choose could make it possible to work around.