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For This Nurse, Home is Where the Operating Theater Is

Growing up, Staff Nurse (SN) Bhavna Bhardwaj aspired to be a pilot, an actress and an architect but it was in nursing where she found her calling. She attributes her inspiration to her mother – who also happens to be a nurse – as well as the thrilling episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ER.

“I told myself that if I were to become a nurse, I have to be an operating theatre (OT) nurse because that is where all the adrenaline is,” SN Bhavna from Farrer Park Hospital’s Major Surgery Suite shared.

The Adrenaline that Drives Her

The operating theatre is where all the magic happens – general surgeons removing tumors, orthopedic surgeons fixing the bones and ligaments, to name a few. With that said, we also know it is not a place for the fainthearted as one would have to deal with how the human anatomy looks like, raw.

SN Bhavna knew what she signed up for and everything else fell into place as she began her role in the OT in 2011 after graduating from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

When asked if she recalled what her first day at work was like, she said: “I recall how excited I was. First-timers usually get assigned to a ‘lump and bump’ case (where there are tumors or cycsts) and that’s what I got.”

“At that moment, I knew I made the right choice,” she added.

However, life did not sail the way SN Bhavna imagined it would.

After a few years into the job, SN Bhavna was influenced by friends and other colleagues who had left their jobs for ‘better job opportunities’. She followed suit but found herself in nursing roles outside of the operating theater, which did not offer her the same adrenaline she wanted in the OT. Her passion for the job was somewhat diminished during that period.

Rediscovering Her Love for Nursing

“There was a time when I stopped being a nurse. I took a year off to try out other jobs such as bartending and I even became a Zumba instructor,” SN Bhavna revealed. “But there was this voice inside me that told me to go back to nursing.”

Encouraged by her friends and family, SN Bhavna decided to take the leap of faith and become an OT nurse again. This time, she knew what she wanted for herself and with confidence and passion, she secured the role at Farrer Park Hospital.

“The voice inside my head said ‘Hey Bhav, you’re a good nurse. You’re really good at what you do. So why not give it another shot?’ and that’s what I did,” SN Bhavna shared. “And it is true – since I went back to being an OT nurse, I’ve never been happier.”

Being Resilient

Just like all jobs, not everything is smooth sailing. Regardless of the profession we are in, there are bound to be challenges. As an OT nurse, it is not just about assisting surgeons with a surgery. It goes beyond that.

“Everyone would have to be a little bit ‘psycho’ to be in the operating theatre. You need to have that adrenaline and passion,” SN Bhavna shared.

When asked what the most challenging thing about being in the OT is, she said: “It is scariest when surgeons yell. But they do it for a reason – for the operation to be conducted successfully. As nurses in the OT, we have to be strong and be able to take comments.”

Injecting Fun and Colors to the OT

Apart from all the action in the OT, SN Bhavna attributes the OT scrubs as one of the biggest motivations for her as a nurse.

“I still remember when I first wore the OT scrubs about a decade ago and thought about how it is the ‘coolest uniform’ in life. Besides the obvious reason that they are comfortable, it also always gives me a boost of confidence as nurse,” SN Bhavna revealed, as she points to her rainbow tie-dye scrub hat and personalized Crocs.

The OT nurse makes it a point to gear up for work every day with her personalized scrub hat and work shoes, a trait that many nurses also practice these days.

Unlike the conventional green or blue scrubs, nurses have since found new ways to add colors to their work life. Besides cheering each other on at work, it also helps to put a smile on patients’ face before a major surgery.

What it takes to be an OT Nurse

Asked what advice she would give to aspiring OT nurses, SN Bhavna said that OT nurses must have a good attitude, strong and most importantly, possess critical thinking.

With patients usually asleep during surgeries, SN Bhavna shared that one way OT nurses provide patient care would be to ensure that patients are kept warm and comfortable throughout the surgery. This includes placing arm or leg boards to support them throughout hours-long surgeries to prevent them from waking up with body or joint aches and other discomfort.

“As nurses, we are also patient advocates. One must be kind, have boundless compassion and always ready to serve,” she concluded.

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