modern medicine, when spirit meets science

Toughness & Temperaments: Stories From The Operation Theatre

“Good evening Sir!”

Suraj and I were walking towards the hospital car park when I heard some cheerful voices behind me. I turned around and saw two young women and a man passing by. 

The greeting was for Suraj. The three of them walked up to us, smiling.

“Hello! Meet Haripriya, my wife” said Suraj to the three of them. 

They smiled and nodded at me.  

“Meet Savita, Vinod and Nisha,” he said to me, “Savita and Vinod are among our best theatre nurses. They must have assisted me with at least 50 surgeries over the last one year. Nisha joined recently and is training to be a theatre nurse too.”

“That’s wonderful! Nice to meet you all,” I said.

“I’ve seen you often on the residential campus Ma’am,” said Nisha to me, “I live there too.”

“Ahhh, yes! I did think you looked familiar as well,” I replied.

We engaged in small talk for a few minutes and then parted ways. 

A week later, I was waiting for Suraj outside the operation theatre block, when I saw Nisha emerging from the entrance. She was walking hurriedly and had tears in her eyes.

She bumped into a senior nurse on her way out and wiped her tears as she explained something to her solemnly.

“Something seems to be wrong,” I thought to myself, feeling concerned.

A month later, I was on a walk in the residential campus when I ran into Nisha near the gate.

She recognized me immediately and said,

“Hello Ma’am! How are you?”

“I’m good Nisha.” I said, “Are you done for the day?”

“Yes Ma’am,” she said, “I assisted a complex case today. It went on for seven hours.”

“Wow!” I said, “You must have a lot of stamina.”

“Thank you Ma’am,” said Nisha and the expression on her face changed suddenly.

“Being a theatre nurse is tough Ma’am,” she said and paused.

“Yes, I can imagine,” I said, sensing there was more to her statement.

“It’s easy to work with some surgeons, difficult with others,” she went on, “I couldn’t handle the temperaments of some surgeons. So, I gave up last month and moved to ward nursing.”

I listened empathetically.

“However, I love to assist surgeries and thought my passion must be more important than the temperaments of others. So, I decided to switch back to working as a theatre nurse,” she said.

I recalled that day last month when I had seen Nisha in tears.

“Something upsetting must have happened while she was assisting that day,” I thought to myself.

“You’ve taken a good decision Nisha. Your love for you work is what counts most,” I said.

I shared this with Suraj later and asked him if it was really so hard for theatre nurses.

He said, “High pressure situations are commonplace during surgery – unexpected obstacles can show up and theatre nurses have to assist seamlessly. Some surgeons lose their temper when assistants aren’t able to keep up in the operation theatre.”

“Oh I see,” I said, “This high pressure environment must be hard on the surgeons as well as theatre nurses. Isn’t learning to be calm a part of your training? Isn’t it a helpful skill to have when one must perform under pressure?”

“Yes, it is. But it isn’t a formal part of training. It’s all learnt on the job,” he said, “Some people possess these skills naturally, some pick it up along the way and some never do.”

“So, problems with human behaviour and interpersonal skills are common to all professions I guess,” I said.

“Yes, of course,” he said.

I thought to myself that being a nurse must be hard. The work is demanding, while the pay isn’t great. In addition, nurses are required to withstand pressure from multiple ends.

Some months later, I bumped into Nisha again during one of my evening walks. She shared with me excitedly that she had received a good job offer from a reputed hospital in Oman and was relocating shortly.

“That’s very good news. Congratulations Nisha!” I said.

“Thank you Ma’am,” she said, “Thank God I decided to pursue my passion. The work experience I gathered as a theatre nurse here and the recommendation letters I got from several surgeons, including Dr Suraj, helped me get the job.”

“That’s awesome!” I said, feeling truly happy for her, “I wish you the best life has to offer.”

This incident made me reflect on different aspects of life – sensitivity in human beings, ability to stay calm under pressure, and the value of persistence and perseverance.

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