Sometime in October, 1998 I started work in the theatre department at Royal Bournemouth Hospital. I felt quite experienced with 3 years in a busy Cardiothoracic centre behind me, 18 months of which had been in theatres. But whilst the principles of scrubbing and laying up of theatre trays were no different, there were many other differences to overcome.
My first step was to complete an induction, this was my chance to meet the various leads in each department and achieve the mandated heath and safety training.
It’s at this point your learn useful tips such as ‘what should I do if the fire alarm goes off’ (hands over your ears and run with the others) and ‘what to do with sharp needles and blades’ (is there anywhere else than the sharps bin…..?)
It was 2 weeks before I completed this and could start scrubbing up with my new team.
New was definitely the verb to use.
New surgeons, nurses and operating department practitioners.
New runners (these are who really run the theatre)
New routines and many new methods to learn.
With 14 theatres carrying out orthopaedic surgery, vascular, gynaecology , general and urology there were plenty of new instruments to learn too.
I made many friends here that I still have now but in the end I only spent 3 months in the post. It was the first and only place where I didn’t feel like I fitted in.
It’s hard to say why without it reading negative and overly critical. I don’t want it to be. I want it to show why I spent such a short time in a post and that’s its ok to accept that sometimes, the place and the time is not right and that moving through this to a new place can turn that negative into a positive.
Some of my difficulties were linked to my personality. My humour, like many scousers, was unforgiving. Under pressure, from behind a surgical mask, this was fed back to me as coming across as harsh. But this was standard wit and banter for me, I came from a place full of characters that ‘gave out’ at all times, especially when the pressure was on. Here was much quieter, almost church like and I was used to music being on and chat bubbling in the background.
I was also having to get used to a very different role. I was used to being deeply involved in the operation, watching patient vital signs and looking out for intro operative bleeding and responding with appropriate instrument and correct size suture.
In many of the theatres I found myself more like a postman. Just passing instruments with no thought or decision being required. Of course this was not true in every area but I definitely felt like I could be more involved, I certainly felt like I had the skills.
I had many long heated debates with one clinical lead in particular on this. We got on really well and to this day I still hold many of her values high, but we totally disagreed on my ideal ways of working. Eight weeks into the post I’d realised I needed a different job and quick, I missed my home town but really liked the hospital and didn’t want to leave.
Lady Luck was on my side.
I had scrubbed in for a long operation which ended with the patient having a planned admission to intensive care. After cleaning down the theatre at the end of the shift I walked through to ITU and asked one of the intensive care nurses if there were any posts coming up for a D grade with previous experience….
Within 2 weeks I had applied for a post and very soon after transferred over.
I look back now and wonder if I could have done things differently. Was it just me? I’m not sure but I’m grateful of the lessons I learnt and the next opportunities it gave me.
If you went to the same theatres today, it’s a very different place. This week saw them building teamwork and trust though joint yoga and gong bath sessions, it a very positive place.