January 7, 2021

It's okay to be nervous

Dear Student or New Graduate, 

You’re nervous. I know you’re nervous. We all know you’re nervous. And it is completely understandable! 

With my 13 years of experience in the operating room, I know first-hand what it is like for a new graduate coming into the operating room, or for a student being preceptored in their senior practicum. Most nursing students don’t even get to experience the OR, so let me ease your nerves a little and give you some encouragement.  

First off, it’s ok to be nervous. Actually, I could argue that it’s a healthy response. If a student or new nurse walked into the OR and wasn’t nervous at all, I would have concerns. The OR is a very intense and stressful environment, so being nervous is the correct response. Just don’t let that feeling overwhelm you! Lean on your preceptor when you start to feel a bit shaky and don’t be afraid to speak up and tell them how you are feeling. A good preceptor should analyze the situation and offer guidance as needed and support when necessary.  

Second, doctors are humans too. In the OR, we work side by side with anesthesiologists, surgeons, residents and medical fellows and I completely understand how that can be intimidating.  Furthermore, being new to the OR, you can feel the pressure of being the lowest on the totem pole. But from my experience, physicians are just like the rest of us.  We all have good days and bad days. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. In other words, we are all human.  

Thirdly, mistakes will happen. It’s part of the learning process so don’t get too hung up on trying not to make a mistake and instead, learn from it. I have had many students scared to make a mistake that may be detrimental to the surgery. Honestly though, as you build a trusting relationship with your preceptor and everyone you are working with, you will rarely be in a position to hinder the surgery – we work as a team, and everyone is responsible for everyone else. 

Lastly, you have way more to offer than you think. You don’t need to hide behind your student title. Get in there, be the best you can be, and try. You will have a way better preceptorship if you are not afraid to get your hands dirty and be part of the team. The more you can experience, the better! 

I hope with this knowledge I was able to ease a bit of your nervousness. Just remember, that even though the OR can be scary, intimidating and stressful, does not mean it’s not all worth it. 

Good luck in the Operating Room!

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