This story was reproduced from the Singapore Health Special Edition on Nursing 2016To serve in the operating theatre, nurses need skills, stamina, emotional control and a very focused mind. By Rachel Chan"Some surgeries can last 10 to 12 hours. Staying focused is critical because the multiple tasks and procedures require precision,” said Nurse Clinician Ng Siew Fong, who heads a team of 20 nurses at Alexandra Hospital’s Anaesthesia Unit, Perioperative Services.The hospital, currently run by Sengkang Health (SKH), started offering general and orthopaedic surgery services this year.Its Operating Theatre (OT ) nurses care for patients before, during and after operations. They assist anaesthetists and surgeons during surgeries, and monitor patients’ conditions in the intra-operative and post-operative stages.
"The operating theatre environment is very dynamic and we can’t afford to have any distraction because it can compromise patient safety." - Ms Ng Siew Fong, Nurse clinician, Sengkang Health
These nurses are also continually improving their levels of concentration with mindfulness techniques, something the hospital has incorporated into its staff training programmes. Mindfulness is said to help one focus through present moment awareness, improve empathy and job satisfaction, and reduce psychological and physiologic stress, emotional distress, and burnout.“The practice of mindfulness helps nurses have active and open concentration on the tasks at hand. The operating theatre environment is very dynamic and we can’t afford to have any distraction because it can compromise patient safety,” said Ms Ng.
Cross-trainingAnother way OT nurses are honing their skills is through rotation of duties, or cross-training. Previously, they used to specialise in a specific area of care such as perioperative, anaesthesia or recovery. Now, by allowing them to rotate through these areas, SKH has developed an in-house training programme that equips them with skills in both anaesthesia and recovery care. The programme includes classroom lessons, on-the-job training, and simulated experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team. They are also assessed on how competent they are in these skills.“More than just empowering them to be all-rounders, there are benefits to having the same nurse take care of a patient before, during and after surgery. It sets the patient’s mind at ease to see a familiar face when he wakes up after surgery,” said Ms Ng.One nurse who underwent this cross-training is Staff Nurse Kamalia Kamis, who joined SKH this year. With four years of experience as an anaesthesia nurse already under her belt, she went on to learn recovery care skills, and said it was an eye opener. “I realised there’s so much to learn in perioperative nursing. My role has expanded beyond supporting the anaesthetists in the OT, and I am more involved in different aspects of care management for patients,” said Ms Kamalia, who will be taking her Advanced Diploma in Nursing (Perianaesthesia) at Nanyang Polytechnic in October.
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