Clinical placements

Observing cardiac surgery made me appreciate theatre nurses’ role

Watching a surgeon replace a young patient’s heart valves helped children’s nursing student Ewout van Sabben appreciate the valuable role played by theatre nurses.
heart

Watching a surgeon replace a young patients heart valves helped childrens nursing student Ewout van Sabben appreciate the valuable role played by theatre nurses.

In my second year of training as a childrens nursing student, I was on placement on a paediatric intensive care unit when I had the opportunity to observe an 11-year-old boy with rheumatic heart disease undergo cardiac surgery.

In the anaesthetic room, the anaesthetist and consultant made sure the patient was thoroughly sedated before he went into theatre. They were soon joined by the surgeon who would perform the operation.

After a central venous line was inserted by the consultant, the patient was ready to go into theatre. Having swapped my blue scrubs for surgical green ones, and wearing a hair protector and face

...

Watching a surgeon replace a young patient’s heart valves helped children’s nursing student Ewout van Sabben appreciate the valuable role played by theatre nurses.

heart
Watching cardiac surgery made Ewout van Sabben appreciate
the role of theatre nurses. Picture: iStock

In my second year of training as a children’s nursing student, I was on placement on a paediatric intensive care unit when I had the opportunity to observe an 11-year-old boy with rheumatic heart disease undergo cardiac surgery.

In the anaesthetic room, the anaesthetist and consultant made sure the patient was thoroughly sedated before he went into theatre. They were soon joined by the surgeon who would perform the operation.

After a central venous line was inserted by the consultant, the patient was ready to go into theatre. Having swapped my blue scrubs for surgical green ones, and wearing a hair protector and face mask, I felt as if I was part of the surgical team.

New technique

When the surgeon started the operation, the first thing that struck me was the smell of burning flesh and the sizzling sound as the surgeon used a device that looked like a soldering iron to cut open the patient’s chest.

He looked completely at ease performing this procedure, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, but it was a totally new experience for me and I found it fascinating.

The chest was then opened, and there was the heart, pumping away. I felt so privileged to see this.

The surgeon was using a new technique, the Ozaki procedure, which he had learned in Japan and had performed only once before. This involves measuring the aortic valves with a special tool, ascertaining the exact valve measurement, then using pre-made stencils of different sizes to draw the right size onto special bovine patches.

Calm and collected

The surgeon cut through the aortic valve like silk. The original valves were then removed and patches were cut out and stitched into the aorta to replace them.

This was mind-blowing to watch, and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it. Seeing a surgeon create a new heart valve from bovine patches is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

This experience also helped me to better understand and appreciate the role of the theatre nurse. As well as coping with the pressure of the intense surgery, the theatre nurses knew every bit of equipment and where to find it, and assisted the surgeon and other medical staff while remaining calm and collected.

They had also supported and comforted the young patient prior to surgery, and after the operation made sure he was transferred safely into the care of the nursing staff on the paediatric intensive care unit.


ewoutEwout van Sabben is a second-year children’s nursing student at the University of West London 

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