Being an on call operating room nurse.

nursing-callTaking call is a standard part of scheduling in the operating room. I was an operating room scrub nurse for 11 years and I served my time a plenty carrying that evil, evil pager. The rules were simple in our hospital, we had the main day shifters 6:45-3:00, the lunch relievers 10:30-7:00, late shifters from 3:00-11:00. After 3:00 there were two additional call teams to pick up the extra cases that were rolling over or to serve any emergencies that came in. The two call teams were on until 7:00am the next morning with 1 person in-house at all times. The weekends were different of course as most surgeons do not opt to do elective cases at 7:00 a.m. on Sundays (notice I say most) so two call teams were available to service these emergent cases with 1 person in house at all times. Confused yet? It gets better.

If you were the lucky winner of weekend call you started at 3:00 pm Friday and had the joy of gladly relinquishing your pager to the front desk at 7:00am Monday. I know, I know sounds like fun right? It gets better, not only did you get to carry this old timey, annoying pager thingy but, WHEN not IF it went off you had 15 minutes to be in the hospital, changed into your O.R. scrubs and ready to rock, or cut, choose the words you prefer. How is this possible? Well you keep it attached to your person at all times, when the damn thing blares you jump in you car, you call the hospital while en route to find out what you are being summoned for. If it was a rodding of a femur you could relax a little and breathe on your way in, your patient has plenty of time on their side. On the other hand, if it happened to be a ruptured aortic aneurysm or a gun shot wound to the chest or head, look out sally, they are going to hit your O.R. the same time you do.

In cases like these obviously the clock is not on your patient’s side, you work together as an ultimate team, everybody in hyper warp speed to save this beautiful life whomever they may be. It really is an amazing system in action, like a movie. The E.R. nurses and docs I’ve seen have always shown an awesome display of knowledge, speed and compassion. They would be running down the hallway trying to maintain stability of the patient until they pushed them through our doors. Then the operating room team would take over, again an amazing display of know how, swiftness and teamwork, a well oiled machine. Prep…drape…cut…stabilize… that is, if you had time to prep and drape. I have seen many instances where it was stabilize…. then prep and drape, the cut had been made for you via trauma.

I’m not going to tell you I liked taking call because that would just be a flat out lie, I would much rather be enjoying well, anything, other than carrying that stupid pager. One thing I can say is that, when I was on call and, after a call case was over, it always felt incredibly great knowing that I was part of a team that actually saved a life that day. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that. Even though I gave up my pager to flip into sales I have to admit that I love the operating room, always will. What’s your passion?

  • 1 Comment...Your thoughts?


  1. I am an anesthesiologist, just two days ago I left a meeting of OR administrators, hospital administrators and chiefs of surgery and anesthesia, ( I am an anesthesiologist ) The OR goes to one room at 3:00 P. M. but usually there are two or three running late. Raised surgical voices when a surgeon has a two hour case that he can not start at 2:30 because it might run over. We had to do this or lose OR nurses who were often working late and on light days being riffed.

    I have never found a solution in the plethora of articles on OR management.

    Very frustrating being yelled at.

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