Perioperative nursing -- the specialty that revolves around the operating room -- could mean dealing with any part of the human body. One of the specialty areas in this nursing field is related to vision. A scrub nurse in the operating room plays a specific and vital role in protecting the patient from infections and potential human error.
Perioperative nursing in eye surgery actually begins prior to the surgery, where the nurse performs a preoperative assessment, provides patient education and emotional support, administers medications and collects relevant data such as allergies or past medical history. The nurse then prepares the operating room for the surgery, first performing a surgical scrub to ensure clean hands, and then putting on a sterile gown, cap and gloves. The next task is to set up the sterile field on which instruments and supplies are placed for the operation; the scrub nurse is often helped with this task by the circulating nurse or scrub tech.
Keeping Things Safe
Just before the surgery starts, the scrub nurse confirms with the surgeon regarding the eye on which the operation is to be performed. Once the patient is on the operating table and under anesthesia, the scrub nurse's primary tasks include handing supplies and instruments to the surgeon while constantly monitoring the sterile field to ensure that nothing becomes contaminated. A contaminated instrument or towel could cause a serious eye infection that might result in decreased vision. The scrub nurse must also anticipate what the surgeon needs in order to ensure the operation goes smoothly and quickly.
During the surgery, the scrub nurse performs a variety of tasks, including helping to keep the cornea of the eye moistened with sterile saline solution, preparing equipment such as a cautery for the surgeon’s use, adjusting the surgical microscope the physician uses, and ensuring that there is no air in any of the syringes or other tools used to inject medications. One vitally important task is performing a sponge and instrument count to ensure nothing has been left inside the patient’s body. Once the procedure is finished, the scrub nurse might place eye drops in the patient’s eye and put on a dressing.
Clean Up and Paperwork
After the operation, the scrub nurse accompanies the patient into the post-anesthesia unit and reports to the recovery nurse. Then it's clean-up time -- back to the operating room to collect supplies and instruments, and to clean and test equipment prior to putting it away. All protective clothing, such as the sterile gown, cap and gloves, must be removed and discarded or placed in a laundry hamper. The scrub nurse may also have some paperwork to complete, such as any necessary documentation related to the operation.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.