Your Surgical Team: Many Hands, One Goal

When you have surgery do you know how many professionals are involved? You know your surgeon and have met his/ her office staff but who else will be caring for you?

Your team involves your primary doctor (PCP) who takes care of you before surgery and may be involved in your care during your surgery. Your PCP will definitely be involved after your cancer has been treated.

On the day of your surgery, your first stop is Patient Registration, where staff checks you into the hospital or ambulatory surgery center. They will confirm your identification and planned surgery. You can expect to receive an identification bracelet that will be used throughout your stay. Some hospitals will have a pre operative (pre-op)  visit with nursing staff before the actual day of surgery.

You will then be escorted into the Pre-op area, where you will be greeted by a nurse and taken into a room for evaluation. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown.  Your nurse will confirm your allergies, medications, past medical and surgical history, obtain your vital signs (weight, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation and temperature) and perform a brief examination of your heart and lungs. An IV (intravenous catheter used to give fluids and medications) will be started.

If your surgery will require a sentinel lymph node biopsy or localization procedure, you will be taken to the Radiology Department, where a radiologist and his/her assistants will perform the localization procedure(s). Following that, you will go back to your Pre-Op room. Your surgeon will come to see you to mark the operative site with a marking pen, review your operative plans and to answer any last minute questions you may have.

An anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) will come to your Pre-op room and discuss the anesthesia to be provided for your surgery. Your anesthesia provider will ask specific questions about your medical and surgical history and will perform an examination of your heart and lungs. You should ask any questions you may have about the anesthesia.

The operating room nurse (OR RN) will get a hand off report from the Pre-op nurse and will introduce himself or herself to you. The OR RN will then take you to the operating room and will have your family and friends go to the waiting room, where a receptionist is available to communicate updates.

In the operating room you will also meet your surgical technicians. They and the Central Supply staff have been preparing for your surgery so that your surgeon will have everything needed for your care. The OR charge nurse (OR supervisor) has coordinated the staff assigned to your room, with the help of the OR scheduler who has received information from your surgeon’s office staff.

The surgical technicians play an invaluable role in your care by assisting your surgeon throughout your operation.  Your OR RN will be helping with medications, suture and specimen processing. Your specimen may be x-rayed and/or immediately sent to the pathologist for a frozen section.  If a frozen section is performed, it will be processed by the pathologist’s lab assistant and examined by the pathologist. The pathologist will be in direct communication with your surgeon, who can make a determination as to additional tissue sampling, such as taking extra tissue from the lumpectomy or performing an axillary dissection.  Your OR RN, as directed by your surgeon, may also provide updates for your family and friends.

When your operation is complete, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU, also known as the Recovery Room), where a PACU nurse will monitor you as you wake up from anesthesia.  The PACU nurse receives a report from your OR RN and anesthesiologist or CRNA. The PACU nurse works with your surgeon and anesthesiologist to make sure you are comfortable and safe.  Your surgeon will talk with your family and friends. When you have recovered from anesthesia your PACU nurse will take you back to your Pre-Op room, or your inpatient room if you will be spending the night in the hospital.

If your surgery is an outpatient procedure, your PACU nurse will give report to your   nurse who will prepare you for discharge. Your nurse will make sure that you are able to eat and drink and that your pain is well controlled. He/she will also provide instructions to you and your family. A staff member will then escort you to your car.

And after you are gone, and before you came, the housekeeping staff makes sure that your rooms are left sparkling clean, the dietary staff keeps the pantry stocked and meals to fuel healing and the pharmacists and their assistants provide the medications used during your stay.

Many Hands, One Goal: Taking care of you!