Being an OR Nurse in the Time of COVID-19

In this week’s Nurse’s Spotlight we’d like to introduce you to Amy Gross, an operating room RN, who was recently married and lives in Springfield, Missouri with her husband and cat named Theodore.


Amy, who was first introduced to nursing by speaking with a few nurses at a job fair in middle school, went on to take a course her senior year in high school called: Health Occupations, which solidified her decision that nursing was the right career path for her. Before even signing up for nursing school, Amy had already learned a lot about physiology, and fell in love with the science of health and caring for others. While Amy has never been a travel nurse, she has a lot of insight about being an OR nurse in the time of COVID-19. Here is what she had to say: Why have never tried travel nursing? Well, I have thought about it and I’ve spoken to a couple agencies. But the reality is this: even though the pay is better than what I currently earn I don’t feel I’m the type of nurse that would be happy always being the “new gal” every few months nor do I think I’d be comfortable moving around the country so often, especially now. I love my cat and my husband too much. Basically, I just never felt it was right for me. As an OR nurse, have you seen a reduction in hours? In the beginning? Yes. A couple months ago administrative staff gave us a 2-week notice to utilize our PTO for the month of March, or take that time unpaid, as they were closing the ORs temporarily. I was fortunate in that I’ve never taken a vacation since I started my current job, so I had about 3-weeks of PTO to utilize. When I returned to work, I was also very lucky because they had an open position for me as many others were still utilizing their PTO. Since then the OR has changed a bit and we went from working four, 10-hour shifts to three, 12-hour shifts. What I’ve noticed over time though, is that nothing is really set in stone, and things are changing all the time. My schedule is always in flux, including on-call hours which seem to change all the time. This may not seem like a lot, but in the past I had a very stable schedule, which was usually passed out 6-weeks prior. These days, it seems things can change at a moment’s notice, so I never really know when I’m supposed to work, as it changes all the time. And honestly? It’s kinda scary. As a nurse I never thought I’d ever have to worry about having a job or anything like that. But OR nursing is kinda different these days. Like my husband and I are moving to the St. Louis area at the end of next month and I should have had a ton of opportunities to choose from. But because of this COVID stuff I’ve only had like 2 hospitals get back to me. I’m fortunate that I do actually have a position lined up for when I move, but it does come with a very tentative start date. How do you feel hospital management is handling COVID-19? I think they’re trying as hard as they can and I also think they’re kind of in the same boat as us, which is: in the dark about a lot of things. But my experience has been that as soon as they have information, they let us know what they know. Do you seen the nursing field changing because of COVID-19? That’s kind of a tricky question. I think we’ll get back to “normal” but I think things will still be kind of weird for a little while. Like I don’t know how long it’s going to take for them to get our PPE back. That’s kind of one of the deciding factors. Because people want to work, so I don’t know how that’s all going to playout, but I think we’ll eventually get back to a “new” normal. What do you mean by the PPE situation? The main thing is for techs who are scrubbed in and helping the surgeon but need to break for lunch. They can’t break scrub because they have to preserve the gowns, because they’re in limited supply. So, if they want lunch they either have to have it super early, or super late. On certain cases, like airway cases (e.g. ENT) all scrub techs and surgeons have to have the N95 mask while they are operating. Basically, we need a lot more PPE than usual to protect healthcare workers when a patient needs to be intubated. And the N95s? Right now you have to check them in out at the beginning of your shift, and return them at the end of your shift where they’re cleaned, and will be used again. If you had full control of the healthcare system in the United States is there anything you would change? And if so, what would that be? That’s a really tricky question as well, mainly because the difference between New York City (NYC) and Springfield is vastly different. We’ve been lucky in so far as we’re not getting hit as bad with COVID – but in NYC it’s just awful. I have some nursing friends who have travelled to NYC for work and are like “it’s insane, everything everyone is saying is true, this is real.” So, it’s really hard for me to say, but mainly I’d like to see more PPE for everybody. My husband is a mechanical engineer and he says producing an N95 is a lot harder than people think. Even if a company wants to make 40,000 masks (for example) they only have so much manpower and capacity and I’m hearing also that it’s not only manufacturers but also the distribution facilities – and taking into account that a lot of the manufactures are overseas just complicates the whole thing even further. Do you have any advice for OR nurses?


Stay positive. I’m pretty sure this will all blow over at some point and then the backload of cases that will be coming up. I mean there will be a job coming soon, it’s just a matter of hanging on. Even if COVID-19 stays around a lot longer than people think, I do think hospitals will start doing more elective cases because a lot of the ones we’re starting to do right now are cancer patients that they’ve pushed off. So, there’s going to be a lot of these types of cases that need to get done. —–


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