Theatre nurses work with patients of all ages and are involved in every stage of a person’s operation. HCA interviewed Kerrie Ferguson, an HCA Agency Theatre Nurse in WA, while she took some time off in the Sunshine Coast. Kerrie tells us what she enjoys about her job, how she finds agency nursing with HCA and why her patients are at the centre of her care.
- What drew you to the Theatre Nursing profession?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a PE teacher as I loved fitness and long holidays but fell into nursing as the need was there and my cousins were also nurses. While I was studying at University, I worked in all different nursing roles, including A&E, Theatre, and Med/Surgical. This is where my love for Theatre Nursing came about. I first worked in a regional hospital in Airlie Beach (Whitsundays) which I loved but wanted more for my career. My first major hospital job was working at St Vincent’s Public in Sydney. I loved the rush of it all and decided Peri-Op Nursing would be my choice of field. I moved to Perth in 1999. I was told about the opportunity to work casual shifts with an agency, so I went and worked in Port Headland for a year as an agency nurse. When I moved to Perth in 2003, I decided to join ASEPS (HCA Theatre Nurse Agency) and haven’t looked back since.
- What personal qualities do you have that make you a good Theatre Nurse?
I don’t like to talk about myself too much. Every day is unique. You get to work with all kinds of people, patients, nurses, orderlies, cleaners, and doctors. I find I’m a good communicator, not afraid of asking questions, give praise where it’s due, work well as a team member, know my job, can have a laugh (even during sad situations as a coping mechanism), adapt to change and like to think I’m efficient. For me, my patients are always number one, so I’m not shy about being their advocate when they’re asleep.
- How would you describe a typical day in your job?
When I’m doing the Anesthetics shift, there are many things to do prior to patients coming in. Anaesthetic machines need to be checked and passed, trolleys unlocked, setups ready (hopefully correct), including IV fluids and more. Once the Anaesthetist is set up and ready, we collect the patient, having checked them in and made all necessary checks for surgery prior. The patient is taken into theatre, made ready for surgery with monitors (measuring heartbeat, BP, and more), position them correctly, keep them warm and help anaesthetise them. We re-check positioning and monitors before tidying up. We then get ready for our next patient’s airway requirements and help the scrub/scout nurses with their job when required. We are all one team.
I try to always treat my patients as if they were my own family to ensure they have the best care. If I’m working as a Scout, I will set up the trolley for the scrub nurse, connect equipment when needed, check in the patient and run around getting things ready for surgery. As a Scrub, you should always be thinking ahead of the surgeon to anticipate what they need or may need doing the operation. I assist with the operation in passing instruments, ensuring no sharp injuries occur, being ready in advance with sutures, packs, fluids, implants etc.
The types of surgeries I regularly assist in are Plastics, General, Orthopaedic, Maxillary Facial, Gynae, and Bariatrics.
- As an Agency Nurse, how do you cope with working in new operating environments?
Very well. I love the pressure of having to learn where things are quick. I’m fast to adapt to a new operating environment but I always like to get a quick rundown from the department I’m working with on location about the equipment, sterile packs, emergency equipment and more.
- What is the most difficult situation you have had to deal with?
Every situation I have been in has come with its own set of challenges and I’m always having to think outside the box. My most challenging shift would have to be doing an organ retrieval, as I had somebody close to me pass away not long before and it reminded me of this person and that situation
- What makes a good shift for you?
Working with a collaborative team and seeing all team members get on. Team morale is essential for excellent patient care. Oh, and having FUN!
- How welcome do you feel as an agency nurse?
Sometimes you feel like an outsider, depending if you’re known or not, but I just step in and do my job, which is caring for the patient. I love being an agency nurse and would never go back to full-time hospital employment work again. I can sometimes get bored with the same job day in and out, but I find agency nursing keeps my brain active. Same job, different location and set of rules (big vs small places etc). I LOVE the freedom and flexibility and I still work 5 shifts a week.
- What are you most proud of in your nursing career to date?
Looking after all types of people, whether they’re old or young. Many patients have some anxiety and fear about an operation and I make sure I can either calm them down or make jokes to help relieve their stress and make them feel a little bit more relaxed. The moment they stop and look at you with their eyes, about to go to sleep, and say ‘thank you’ is when I love my job most. Patients are in a place of fear and vulnerability, which can be so scary and intimidating. So, with the simplest of words, it really does tug at your heartstrings. That’s the moment which makes me so proud. I like to make people feel as comfortable and safe as they can and treat them as they were my own family.
- Any tips for new recruits?
It may be hard at first but keep your head high. Have experience under your belt, if you get negativity, learn from it and become better. It’s always important to be adaptable, have a positive attitude and most importantly love your job. And have FUN!!
If you would like to pick up a Theatre Agency Nursing shift, contact HCA on 1300 422 247.