Denisonians in Health Professions: Perioperative Nursing

Denisonians in health professions: perioperative nursing - kristen-oster-190x300.png image #0Kristen Oster ’08

Role: Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist  

Professional or Graduate Schools attended:
Regis University – Bachelors of Science in Nursing, graduated 2010
University of Colorado College of Nursing – Masters of Science in Nursing, Adult/Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, graduated 2013
Future enrollment – University of Colorado College of Nursing Doctorate of Nursing Practice – expected start Fall 2017

Fun Fact: I love going to concerts. You will always find me at a small concert venue checking out the next big band.

Describe the process you went through to select your career path: what impacted your decision?
When thinking about the career path I wanted to take, I always knew I wanted to be in the medical profession. Growing up, my father was an orthopedic/microvascular hand surgeon and my mother was an intensive care nurse, so I was exposed to healthcare at an early age. I rounded with my father on the weekends and spent time at the nurses’ station when not visiting with patients during postoperative checks and dressing changes. I heard stories of my mother taking care of postoperative open heart patients in the intensive care unit with passion and curiosity. During my time at Denison University, I initially thought I wanted to become a physician and therefore focused my course selection on pre-med courses and a major in Biology. As I closed out my junior year and went into my senior year, my thoughts changed from wanting to become a physician to becoming a nurse. My decision was impacted by the future relationships I was going to have with the patients I take care of in the inpatient acute care hospital setting. I wanted to be at the bedside taking care of patients. My thoughts aligned more with the teachings of Florence Nightingale and the nursing care model.

I finished my senior year at Denison University already looking to my next degree program and chose an accelerated bachelors of science nursing program in my home state of Colorado. I was able to obtain my degree in under a year and move into clinical practice on a complex medical unit. During my nursing program, I fell in love with the operating room and worked intently to be able to obtain my dream position of working in the operating room a year after completing my nursing program. As I worked as a clinical staff nurse, I wanted to advance my knowledge to become an advanced practice nurse. I attended the University of Colorado College of Nursing to complete my Adult/Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist program in the Fall of 2013. This program allowed me to advance my nursing and leadership skills to be able to manage the Skullbase/Head/Neck/Neuro surgical service line for two years and assist in my development to my current position as a Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist focusing on quality, safety, and regulatory needs of the perioperative patient.

What are your favorite aspects of your profession?
Nursing as a profession is a great way to be able to participate in the healthcare of patients in a variety of settings. Whether you want to care for adults, children, or the elderly, there is a patient population for you. There is variety in the types of settings you can work in as well, ranging from hospitals, long term care facilities, mental health care facilities, and schools. Specifically, I enjoy nursing for the relationships I form with patients, their families, and the care team I work with on a daily basis.

I love being an operating room nurse because of the autonomy I have in my nursing practice and the collaboration between various medical professionals (surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgical technologists) I experience every day. I also love working in the operating room as the perioperative care continuum is complex and fast paced. The complex work environment requires nurses to be up to date on best evidence, technological advances, and research to provide the best care to patients. Also, as a nurse in the operating room you are able to function as an advocate for your patient who is not able to advocate for themselves. You provide a voice to a voiceless patient and offer comfort to them in their time of need.    

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The most challenging aspect of the nursing career path is dependent on the type of unit you work each. Each unit offers different challenges ranging from large patient loads, long shift hours, extra call hours, and life/death situations. It can be challenging to be caring for 6 patients who are all critically ill, needing your time to care for them, and ensure they are getting the best care. In the operating room, surgical procedures may not go as planned and the outcome may not be what was expected. Each of these aspects can be emotionally and physically draining which can make it challenging.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
Currently, my “typical day” varies on if I am scheduled to provide patient care during my shift or if I am scheduled to work on quality/safety/regulatory needs in perioperative services. I will focus on my typical day as a clinical staff nurse providing direct patient care.

In the operating room at my facility, you are scheduled to start at 0630 and can work an 8, 10, or 12 hour shift depending on unit needs. I come into work at 0630 to receive my assignment for the day and then go to my assigned operating room. The room I am assigned to can vary in total number of surgical cases and various start times. Typically, my first case starts at 0730 so I spend the first hour of my shift planning accordingly based on the types of surgical procedures scheduled in my room and start accumulating supplies. Once I complete the setup of the operating room (with the team effort of my surgical technologist) I head to the Preoperative holding unit to meet and interview my patient. I also review any labs, medical/surgical history, consent forms, and other important information about the patient that may be helpful during the surgical procedure.

When it is time to take the patient to surgery I transport the patient to the operating room and assist the anesthesiologist with induction (putting the patient under anesthesia). After this I position and prep the patient based on the surgical procedure and surgeon requests. Specifically in the operating room, I function as a circulating nurse where I do not scrub in to the sterile procedure but act as a nonsterile team member in the room focusing on all needs of the surgical field and the anesthesia provider. This role focuses on ensuring the patient is safe and the surgical field remains sterile at all times. This role also requires me to have an in depth understanding of the surgical procedure to anticipate needs at all times. Once the procedure is complete and all safety steps are completed I assist the anesthesiologist with waking the patient up and transportation to the PACU. I continue this process throughout the day based on how many surgical cases are scheduled in my room.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your field?
Advice I would give to a student interested in pursuing a career in the nursing field is to spend some time volunteering in a hospital. This will allow you to have direct observation of what a clinical staff nurse typically does during their shift and the relationships/care they provide to their patients. Nursing as a field requires a person to think critically, act independently, work on a team, provide a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold during difficult times. Even during the most difficult times there are always rewarding moments that will change your life forever.