Behind the Mask

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Christine Erickson is no stranger to the operating room. For 10 years she worked as a Perioperative Nurse before embarking upon her current role as Clinical Nurse Specialist, functioning as an expert clinician, leader, researcher, educator and consultant in Perioperative Services at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). She is also the president of the Lakehead Chapter of the Operating Room Nurses Association.

From November 11 to 17, Erickson joined her counterparts across Canada in celebrating Perioperative Nurses Week 2012.

“I believe that the people who come to work in a perioperative environment are extremely passionate so they get very involved in practice standards and care,” Erickson says.
Perioperative nurses work with patients undergoing operative or other invasive procedures. They perform preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care primarily in operating theatres, working closely with Surgeons, Anesthetists, Registered Nurse First Assists, surgical assistants, Respiratory Therapists, operating room attendants, and learners in various allied health professions.

Although perioperative nurses typically spend very little time with a patient compared to their colleagues in many other types of nursing, they always keep the patient as their primary focus and are an integral part of the patient’s journey. The perioperative nurse works with over fifteen Anesthetists, over thirty surgeons perform over thirteen thousand cases a year in the fourteen operating rooms at TBRHSC. It’s an overwhelming amount of information that these nurses are responsible to be educated on in order to be competent in this field. This includes the various physician preferences, the operative procedures, and the equipment involved in each case.

If there is anything religious or cultural that a patient does or does not want done in the operating room, the health care team respects those wishes once a patient is in their care and under anesthetic or sedation

It is important for the health care team to practice Patient and Family Centred Care by making sure the conversations are about the patients, including them in the process and educating them as much as possible, making sure that the patients know they are safe and that the health care team is advocating for them. Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is a leader in Patient Family Centred Care.

“I think patients remember if somebody listened to them, was respectful and cared about their comfort – measures like that warm blanket and respecting their privacy definitely make a big difference,” says Erickson.

“Since the patients are only with us for a short time, we do our very best to ensure that they leave knowing every member of the surgical team had their best interest and safety in mind.”