Sunday, July 26, 2020

Alice Was the Grand Poobah of the Operating Room

God bless dear old Alice until she eats you alive
I've posted many times about my all time favorite OR supervisor, Alice.  During these sometimes discordant  COVID times I miss her strong willed imposition of order and discipline. Alice was like a gas heeding the laws of physics.  She could fill the entire room with her  presence  by virtually wearing authority the way a meticulously attired nurse wore her blindingly white uniform. At the ripe old age of fifty something, command was hers because it was earned by spending decades in the boiling cauldrons of  operating rooms and their combative surgeons. She had dodged more flying instruments and administered more scores of painful knuckle bashings with a sponge stick than I care to remember.

Her repertoire of corrective interventions consisted of humiliation, infliction of pain and  shows of physical strength (Alice had the upper body strength of a linebacker on steroids.) Pain was usually delivered by a snapping blow to the wrist and/or fingers by the business end of a long sponge stick. The length of this instrument could deliver a blow of variable power based on where the fingers grabbed it to form a fulcrum. I usually sustained  the full meal deal for my transgressions with Alice grasping the instrument at the hinge and really winding up. Passing an instrument to a resident before serving an attending or counting sponges too fast or slow were typical transgression. Any break in aseptic technique was also harshly corrected.

While scrubbed on a long, grueling oncology case I began subconsciously doing hamstring stretches at my Mayo stand and lo and behold Alice strolled in. I knew I was in for one of Alice's lectures about how scrub nurses were supposed  to be uncomfortable and any unnecessary movement was a vector for the spread of that dreaded entity known as perineal fallout. Personal comfort and well being of her charges was as much  a priority to Alice as mindfulness was to Moe Howard of The Three Stooges. Luckily, Dr. Slambow saved my hide. As he was meticulously fileting a duct he said, "Alice can't you leave him alone. I can't do this without him." It really paid off making
your services indispensable to surgeons. I always thought of it as the best job security move a scrub nurse could make.

Alice's show of physical strength was also quite impressive. I've seen her single handedly transfer patients of her weight with the ease of an Olympic weigh lifter. She claimed that manually cranked beds were one of the best forms of upper body exercise and who would argue that point with a hulking Alice?

Alice made it a special point to mentor medical students in her own unique fashion. I knew what was coming next when one especially whiney student complained she could not see the operative field. Alice stealthily approached the novice from behind and ram rodded her lunch hook-like hands under the miscreant's arm pits and lifted her a couple of feet off the floor. She always followed maneuvers like this with a suggestion to utilize platforms instead of bitterly complaining.

Old nurses like Alice lived for nursing which was the alpha and omega to their life. Her idea of self care was a quick break for a Coke and a smoke. I never questioned Alice's dedication to her patients because it was her whole life.

12 comments:

  1. Loved this OFRN! All hail the Alice's of this world! (I've known some school headmistresses like this too). Sue

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    1. Yep! I give just about anything to do one more case with Alice breathing down my neck. Paradoxically, her harsh demeanor brought forth a sense that everything was going to be OK if you followed her rules

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  2. "...as mindfulness was to Moe Howard of The Three Stooges." One of your literary classics OFRN.

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    1. In these dark COVID times the sophisticated humor of the stooges brightens my day.

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    2. I find watching Dr Joel E. Fleishman on Northern Exposure DVDs helps - & watching the Crane Dance scene on Utube from the same show - two grown men dancing with a bird is definitely cheering! And almost anything from Seinfeld... whatever helps in these times.. Cheers from Sue

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  3. I'm completely off topic OFRN but in these times when they are talking about the importance of fresh air in hospitals and enclosed spaces to mitigate the spread of Covid19, I have been thinking back fondly to the wards in my old training hospital with windows down the wards that could be opened and doors that opened out onto verandahs where we used to wheel the patients out (either in wheelchairs or in their beds) so they could enjoy the fresh air and gardens...

    I suspect your Alice would approve!

    Best wishes, Sue

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    1. I've been reading John Barry's book about the 1918-19 flu pandemic and fresh air was a big deal back then. The hospitals were mainly one floor so the windows could be opened for cross ventilation. Elevators in modern hospitals moved lots of air around as they went up and down. I always thought this was a hazard moving contaminated air from floor to floor. My training hospital exacerbated this phenomenon by building a multi story tower facility. They even poured extra concrete in the foundation so more floors could be added in the future.

      I've been meaning to post something, but I've been plagued by a lack of energy that I blame on worrying about the pandemic. Denial of the Corona virus is in full force in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Although a natural first reaction, denial never resolves a health issue.

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    2. There's some of that about here too OFRN. You take care over there, some of us out here enjoy your blog! Sue

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  4. Do you by chance have an email address? There's something I want to say but not publicly and I have no intention of sending something nasty or dirty or anything like that. I have posted several times on here, I just can't remember if I used anon or my gmail account.

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    1. My email is oldfoolrn@gmail.com. Folks have emailed me and I think the address is somewhere on the intro to my blog. I love hearing all comments from my readers. I made a mistake of posting slightly political topics and received quite a bit of negative feedback. I never had time for politics when working in the OR and I've learned my lesson to not post on politics. Too devisive for me.

      Thanks so much for perusing my foolishness!

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  5. Thanks for asking, after looking around the blog I could not find it posted. I just added my email address to my profile. I guess the email address went AWOL during one of the modifications to the blog.

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