Scrub nurse Vera Rossi tells us why she loves the job, and how surgical teams work so closely together that they can communicate without words.
What is a theatre practitioner?
I think of a theatre practitioner as the director of a film. We have to make sure the surgeons, anaesthetists, and theatre staff are ready and that all the equipment is working, clean and available for surgery. At University College Hospital at Westmoreland Street, we do a lot of robotic surgery, so a lot of my job also involves making sure the robots are in working order. The perception of what a scrub nurse does is often limited to giving instruments – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Using the robots in surgery requires specialised training and a high level of competency.
What does your job involve day to day?
I stop off on my way in to get a cappuccino. Then I have my first meeting at 8am with all the staff. We discuss the plan for the day and what patients we will be seeing. Then I go into the theatre where I will be working and meet the team I will be working with. We usually do four or five operations in a day.
How did you become a theatre practitioner?
I started working as a healthcare assistant in Italy before going back to university and retraining as a nurse. I sort of fell into working in a theatre – an opportunity came up and I always think you should take opportunities when they present themselves. I found I really, really loved working in a theatre. I love learning and there are so many opportunities to learn and develop in a theatre, as there is a range of different surgeries we do. I didn’t have any experience of working with robots before I came to UCLH, but I was very lucky to be trained by some very experienced people.
Best part of the job?
I love being part of the complex cases, but one of my favourite parts is teaching my colleagues. I like seeing how much they learn with us. Robotic surgery is brilliant for patients too, as it has less impact on the patient so they can usually go home the following day. It is nice to know you have helped them have surgery in a less invasive way than usual. I also like that you work closely with a team so you get to know how they work and can tell what equipment they need next just by their eyes.
What skills do you need?
To be a theatre practitioner, you need to be really organised and a good communicator. You need to be able to plan and always be thinking ahead to what you need to be doing next. It is hard work, but a very rewarding job!