Operating room personnel are key to the outcome of any surgery. It takes a team of doctors, nurses and OR staff working together and performing their individual roles to ensure the best outcome for the patient.
If you are preparing for surgery, you may wonder who these key players are and what roles each of them will play in your care. It’s likely at least one of each of these medical professionals will be in the OR during your surgery:
The surgeon is your primary doctor and considered the leader in the operating room. It is the responsibility of the surgeon to ensure the operation goes smoothly, with minimal complications. The surgeon directs all nurses and assistants in every step of the procedure while working closely with the anesthesiologist to manage the patient’s care and condition throughout the procedure. While some surgeries may require a team of surgeons, the standard surgical team is comprised of one surgeon and one resident surgeon.
The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist is responsible for managing the patient’s level of consciousness during the procedure. Along with your surgeon, you will meet your anesthesiologist/nurse anesthetist prior to surgery to discuss what sedative measures will be taken during your surgery. During this pre-op meeting, be sure to mention any allergies to medication you may have. Prior to surgery, you will be given anti-anxiety medication to relax you. Then the anesthesiologist/nurse anesthetist will induce sedation or apply local anesthetic, depending on the nature of the procedure. The anesthesiologist/nurse anesthetist is also responsible for monitoring and controlling the patient’s breathing during surgery.
Every surgery requires a team of two to four surgical techs to be present in the operating room during the procedure. The “scrub” tech wears a sterilized gown and gloves and is in charge of all the instruments that will be used during the procedure. He or she anticipates what tools and instruments the surgeon will need and passes those to the surgeon as requested. The scrub tech must also keep the surgical field organized and keep track of every piece of gauze and every instrument used during the operation.
This individual is not required to be scrubbed in and is able to move freely around the operating room to perform a variety of duties, including bringing the patient to the operating room, tying the surgical gowns of surgeons and other operating personnel, opening non-sterile outer wrappings of sterilized instruments and retrieving any additional supplies, including instruments and medication. This individual may also be responsible for any paperwork that must be completed by the operating room personnel.
Registered nurses may also perform the duties of the surgical technicians, acting as the scrub nurse or circulating nurse. During some procedures, a nurse acts as the first assistant to the surgeon.
In a teaching hospital, students may also be present in the operating room during your procedure. These may be medical students or nursing students and may assist the surgeon or nursing staff with simple tasks.
Each of these individuals plays a critical role in providing excellent patient care. Every person on the operating room team must know his or her duties and work together with other personnel to ensure a successful outcome for the patient.