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Essay Paper on the Role of the RN in Surgery

by Callum Robinson


Registered nurses in the operating rooms across the planet are increasingly evolving in the scope and range of their surgical assisting occupations. Registered nurses or RNs, as these healthcare professionals are referred to, assist the surgeons in the operating room. While the first role of the registered nurse is to be of assistance to the surgeon or in most cases, a team of surgeons that are operating on a patient, there exists a secondary role that must be understood and realized in order for the operation to be a success. In this paper, both factors of the role of RN’s in surgery will be addressed and discussed. The secondary role of the registered nurse while in the operating room is mainly to see to the non-surgical care of the patient as a patient advocate.

Keywords; registered nurse, surgery, surgical assistants, operating room    

Since the role of registered nurses is an ever evolving one in the surgical sites of hospitals, day surgery centers, and the like, it is important to gain an understanding of this evolution of nurses in operating rooms (Farley, Latham, 2011). With the advent of more responsibilities and patient care factors in the operating rooms, it is the registered nurse that bears the brunt of this increased responsibility.

The surgeon or the surgical team is considered the lead in any surgical environment. As this makes sense, it is also important to realize that the registered nurse has taken on more of the secondary, patient care duties, than ever before. Registered nurses in the operating room have been a staple for more than a century with the first RNs in the surgical rooms of the world, occurring in England.

Registered nurses assists the patient with anything that these comprised individuals need. It matters not that the patient is conscious as most of the time, while in surgery, the patient is unconscious. Operating room nurses are called perioperative nurses as this term correctly identifies the role of the registered nurse in the surgical environment. The operating rooms may be in a hospital or possibly in a separate building devised primarily for day surgery episodes. This transference of surgical episodes out of the traditional hospital to the specialized day surgical center, has created a special type of operating room registered nurse.

The evolution of registered nurses in these specialized environments has made it especially difficult for these highly trained surgical patient advocates to conduct all that needs to be done in a surgical episode. With having the tasks of assisting the surgeon as well as the patient during surgery, the amount of pressure and stress at times, that is placed upon the perioperative nurse is increasingly difficult to handle. Additionally, the legal ramifications of making a mistake and being sued for medical misconduct, albeit purely by accident, have made the role of a registered nurse in surgery a fragile encounter (Adams, 2007).

The medical profession has accepted the increasing role of the registered nurse in the operating room as this is something that cannot be minimized. While there are those in the surgical field that have major complaints about the role of RNs in the operating room, as a whole, the medical community has acknowledged that these healthcare professionals are an asset to the patient.

As the main custodian to the patient before, during, and after, surgery, it is the role of the registered nurse that has taken center stage in most cases. This is an important factor to educate the public as well as private medical communities on as the regarding of the registered nurses role, in nay surgical environment, must remain positive and beneficial. The comprimisation of either the registered nurse or the surgeon in the operating room on the basis of seniority and authority is a debate that has to be neutralized.

One of the most important roles of the registered nurse in the operating room is that of surgeon assistant. As the surgeon is the lead member of any operational episode, it is a chain of command setup that must be strictly adhered to and respected. The life of the patient is the most important factor in the surgical setting and anything else that threatens to corrupt this balance is seen as demonstrative and unnecessary.

The registered nurse in the operating room is the primary custodian of clinical care for patients. By aptly and intelligently assisting to the care and  requirements of the patient, while at the same time, ensuring that the surgeon has what he or she needs in an instant, makes the role of a registered nurse in surgery, a fascinating and compelling adventure in patient advocacy.

In summation, the role of the registered nurse during operational episodes can be seen as a multi-dimensional undertaking (Mayo, 2011). The cause and affect relationships that develop on an almost instantaneous basis makes the role of RN in the operating rooms, one of immense importance and patient advocacy care and concerns. It is the upwards evolution of the registered nurse in the scope of surgical assistance, that has created an immense need for more education, and a better method of transitioning the associate nurse, to the role of a perioperative nurse (Murray, 1998).

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Adams, P. (2007). Surgical Nursing. Careers and Colleges. Alloy Education.com. Website.

Farley, T. L., Latham, G. (2011).  Evolution of Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Role Within a US Academic Medical Center. University of California San Francisco Medical Center,San Francisco, California ICU Director January/March 2011 vol. 2 no. 1-2 16-19.

Mayo Edu. (2011).  Perioperative Nursing Career Overview. 2011 Mayo Foundation for
Medical Education 2011.

Murray, W.J.G. (1998).  Matter for Debate – Nurses in Surgery – Opportunity or Threat? A Personal View. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh J. R. Coll. Surg. Edinb., 43 December 1998, 372-373.

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