Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Surgical Switcheroo

Recently there were reports in the news of a patient concealing a miniature recoding device in her pony tail to record operating room personnel during her surgery. It's a good thing patients lacked the motivation or technology to surreptitiously record the goings on when my favorite surgeon, Dr. Slambow did a case.

Most surgeons like to engage their scrub nurses in the surgery. It makes the scrub nurse feel important and can be a real ego booster. Most surgeons keep it simple and ask things like. "Should we use 3-0 here?" Dr. Slambow took scrub nurse inclusion a step further. He would start by telling stories about how he worked as a "Mayo" nurse during his youth as a way to pay his way through medical school. For some reason he always referred to the scrub nurse as  a "Mayo nurse" and the circulating nurse as a "hustle nurse." His terminology did have a nice ring to it and sounded quaint and reassuring.

Whenever there was a routine cholecystectomy with a 4th year surgical resident scheduled, Dr. Slambow delighted in pulling his old switcheroo. He would start by telling the scrub nurse that he was going to gown and glove himself independently without our assistance. We all knew what was coming next. After self gowning and gloving he would say "Alright Nurse  Fool get down there opposite that young docster ( he referred a to all residents as docster), you are going to assist him perform the surgery while I perform as the scrub nurse. I anxiously complied even though my surgical skills were limited to cutting suture and providing retraction. I did eventually learn how to tie off a bleeder, but left the suturing to the resident because Dr. Slambow was very fussy about this. The sutures had to be perfectly equidistant and each suture line had to have perfectly aligned margins.

Dr. Slambow  just loved being the scrub nurse. He said that the "Mayo"  nurse had the best seat in the house and was in a position to control the tempo of the surgery. "The person handling the instruments is in charge of the case," according to Dr. Slambow. This was true when he was the scrub nurse as he provided a running commentary of the case. He reminded me of how Jack Brickhouse, a sports commentator on WGN called a baseball game. Dr. Slambow would yell out "HEY.....H.EY" just like Brickhouse did at high points in the case. As a nurse playing surgical assistant, I always thanked Dr. Slmbow at the close of the case just as he always did when he was the surgeon. He always replied. "The pleasure was all mine."

I sometimes wondered how the patient would have felt having known that the switcheroo had occurred. Back then what happened in the OR stayed in the OR. Thank heaven those mini voice recorders were decades in the future.

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