What does a scrub nurse do to prepare for surgery?
Before the surgery happens, we plan the next day’s list of operations. I generally check what surgical instruments are needed for a particular surgeon and order them from the central supply department to be delivered to theatre the next morning.
There are 39 theatres across UCLH and thousands of different types of instruments – forceps, retractors, elevators etc! An average operation needs about 40 different types of instruments, but that can rise to more than 300 in complex cases.
And on the day?
In theatre we have what we call a ‘huddle’ or ‘team brief’ – a detailed discussion about the patient and the operation before it starts. I do my research the day before and know what kind of procedure is ahead. Once it starts, a scrub nurse needs to be ultra-aware, to anticipate what instrument the surgeon is likely to need next. The surgeon will occasionally say ‘scalpel please’ – just like in the movies.
What kind of qualities do you need?
An eye for detail, being calm in an emergency, cautious, good team player, good team communication skills and have the safety of the patient at the forefront of your mind every single second. Some procedures take about half an hour, but others, such as removing a facial tumour and reconstructing it, can last from 8am to the end of shift at 8.30pm – or beyond (the night shift then take over)! The atmosphere can be quite intense at times!
Have you ever had surgery?
No! I might be a little nervous!
What’s it like working here?
I started as a junior scrub nurse, but UCLH has given me some great opportunities to learn and develop. I’m now in a more senior position, and a team leader. I attend surgical planning meetings with pre assessment nurses, speech therapists, clinicians and specialists to help plan the allocation of staff and equipment required. The most advanced cases need careful planning six weeks in advance to make sure we use our theatres most efficiently and effectively.
Why a scrub nurse?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an electrical engineer – I love maths – but my mum said I was too much of a caring person. So, I pursued my degree in nursing. I became a scrub nurse in the Philippines before moving to the UK – and I love what I do. I’m so interested in anatomy, and it is fascinating to see it all in close up! I’ve never been squeamish.
Do you watch medical dramas on TV?
Yes, I like ER, Good Doctor, House and Grey’s Anatomy – I am an armchair critic!