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Theatre Nursing - rewards and challenges of a unique role

Photo: Health Times
Working with patients at their most vulnerable time, makes the role of theatre nursing both unique and challenging, requiring a diverse set of skills and calmness under pressure.

For Angela Fischer, an Anaesthetic Nurse at Logan Hospital, working as a theatre nurse has been a natural choice, despite concerns from colleagues that her extroverted personality may not be a good fit.

“My NUM along with my colleagues said I would not like it in theatre as I liked my patient interaction and I enjoyed dressing up on special occasions to cheer up my patients.

“They said I would not be able to do this in theatre - 9 years later and I am still a theatre nurse and I have managed to bring my own style to theatre by wearing my own colourful scrubs and hats, and even managed to dress up as an elf over Christmas which the staff and patients loved.”
When Ms Fischer first began her nursing studies, she planned to work in a cancer ward, but after following a patient on their journey through the operating theatre, she found the experience both intimidating and interesting.

“I was amazed at how many people were in the operating theatre and was glad when the long procedure was over and the patient was in recovery.”

A Theatre Nurse has many different roles, and therefore lots of different roles and responsibilities.

“As a PeriOperative Nurse (Theatre Nurse) you are responsible for providing care to a patient during their Peri-Operative journey.

“So from the admission to theatre for their surgery, their anaesthetic, surgery, recovery, and discharge home if a day case or to the ward.”

While theatre nurses have many roles and responsibilities, and some theatre nurses work in all areas, most will complete the transition program and stay in one of the following areas:

Day Surgery Holding Bay Nurse
Recovery Nurse
Anaesthetic Nurse
Scrub Scout Nurse

After completing the transition to Peri Operative Nursing program, Ms Fischer has spent most of her time as a scrub nurse, with the last three years being spent as an anaesthetic nurse.

“I enjoyed working as a scrub Scout Nurse and especially scrubbing for the big open cases such as abdominal hysterectomies and bowel surgery.

“The role of the Scrub nurse is to assist the surgeon by passing them the instruments, sounds simple but is a lot more involved than that.

“As a Scrub nurse you are multi-tasking at its best, you are making sure the patient is safe, you’re making sure the sterile field remains that way, your counting instruments, sponges, raytec, sutures, you’re watching the medical student gown and glove, you’re keeping an eye on the resident and the registrar, you’re prepping the area for surgery, draping, handing instruments to the surgeon.

“The Scrub nurse also needs to have an understanding of what the operation is and the anatomy of the patient so you can preempt what the surgeon needs next and give it to them.”

Ms Fischer says despite the challenges, she’s glad she fell into a role she had no intention of ever getting into.

“I did not know what to expect and I am glad I took the opportunity that was given to me, as I love working as a theatre nurse,” she says.

“I enjoy the dynamics of the theatre environment and the close working relationship with my colleagues, I enjoy the variety and the fact every day is different and has its challenges but we work together as a team to provide life saving care for out patients.

Due to the nature of theatre nursing, those working in this area require a unique set of skills to manage the dynamic and often challenging environment.

“As an Anaesthetic Nurse you need to have a calm and friendly nature in order to gain the trust of your patients in a short period of time, you need to be able to reassure the patient that they are safe and we will do everything we can to make sure they are safe.

“As a Scrub Scout nurse you need to be able to control your bladder as you can't Unscrub during an operation to go to the bathroom. And you can be scrubbed for long periods of time.

“The operating theatre is a very unique area and can be very stressful.

“To the outside eye, it can appear very messy during a crisis event, as there can be lots of people and lots of noise.

“As a theatre nurse you need to be able to remain calm in a crisis situation. There are lots of big personalities in the operating theatre.”

But while the theatre environment can indeed be stressful, Ms Fischer says it’s also extremely rewarding.

“Your team is like family and we have our bad days and good days but we are there for each other and help each other during the bad times.

Every day is different and has its challenges and rewards.


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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.