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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Improving OR Nurse Communication With Families Perioperatively

Published March 24, 2011 9:31 AM by Guest Blogger
Kevin Clark Visitacion, BSN, RN, is an operating room staff nurse from Chicago.

I was born to a family of nurses. Four of my aunts are nurses. Myself, and three of my cousins also are nurses. A lot of times I feel lucky that I, and the rest of my family, are surrounded by people who know how to deal with health issues. There were countless times that their knowledge of healthcare has helped me and the people close to me.

My late sister, my cousin, and just recently my grandfather, have undergone surgeries. During the procedure there was always someone (one of the nurses in the family) who fully understood what was happening and could explain it to others. But in the back of my mind, I thought, what if they weren't there; and what about other families who don't have someone in the healthcare industry who could help them understand what is happening as it happens.

I work in the operating room as an RN and in the facility that I work in, we always see to it that the patient's family, friends or significant others are updated on what is happening inside the OR. Every time I call out to my patient's family, I always see to it that I use simple words and help them understand what is happening at that moment. However, I don't believe this happens in every setting. I have an idea that might make it easier for facilities to communicate with families in a way they will understand.

Each surgery has a unique set of steps. I believe these steps can be translated into simple words through grouping them in stages. The stages and a simplified description will be a form (see sample below). The form would then be used to explain the surgery to the patient and their family prior to surgery. The same form will then be given to the patient and family the day of the surgery.

On the day of surgery, the family members have the form in their hands. The circulating nurse tells them what stage of surgery they are in and the family knows exactly what's happening and how many steps are left.

Even the surgical team can use the form. The OR has a great mix of people: interns, RNs, med students, etc., and not everyone may be familiar with the procedure. It gives an idea as to which stage of surgery a patient is in and can be expressed in simple words: Stage 1, Stage 2 , etc.; no lengthy explanation needed.

I truly believe in advance preparations. When we travel we have itineraries and we feel better because we know we have means to get our destination. We go grocery shopping and we feel confident we won't forget something because we have a list. Perhaps in the future, the families of patients in surgery can feel less anxious because they have in their hand an easy-to-follow form with simple language.


Stages of Surgery: Colon Resection

Stage I: Incision is made on the abdomen to expose the surgical area.

Stage II: Tissues and muscles connecting the colon to the surrounding organs are cut-off.

Stage III: The portion of the bowel is clamped and removed.

Stage IV: The remaining portions of the bowel (the small intestine and the distal end of the colon) are connected with the use of surgical staplers and/or sutures.

Stage V: Muscles and tissues are repaired. Check for signs of bleeding and anastomotic leaks and fix accordingly.

Stage VI: Abdominal wound / Surgical site closure.






posted by Guest Blogger


Clarity made simple. Thanks Kev great article!

Linda, Surgery - RN, NMH April 27, 2011 9:05 PM
Chicago IL

Kevin provided an excellent point and such a great idea to communicate to patients and families. Healthcare is such a complicated world and the strategy he provided would greatly decrease anxiety to everyone supporting the patient, including the patient.  Thank you Kevin.

Odina, Surgery - RNFA April 26, 2011 12:01 PM
Chicago IL

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