Health & Wellness

Behind the Operating Room’s Curtain

Ever had an operation or waited for someone who was having one? Those are very different feelings. For the support people, it’s wait here, move there, wait again and finally someone comes to tell you what’s going on. For the patient, it all depends on whether or not the surgery is scheduled. If not, the element of emergency usually dampens whatever chance you have to be anxious. If your operation is scheduled, you have the time for your anxiety to creep up on you. Then you find yourself stripping down, being wheeled into the operating room and waking up in recovery with no memory of what happened in between. What goes on from a staffing point of view, though?


Hospitals and clinics make a good deal of their money from the activity in operating rooms. That means there’s also the potential for operating rooms to be sources of great loss. Many hospitals and clinics use an OR charge analysis system to streamline their billing. These systems track the hours each employee works in the OR, what procedures are performed and what equipment is used so the patient or their insurance can be billed accordingly. Many systems also compare the costs assessed by multiple hospitals and clinics so that each institution is charging relatively the same amount.


Ever wonder why there may be a team of surgeons and nurses working on you in the OR? The delicacy of your surgery and the length of time the operation takes dictates how many staff members will be working on you. Most surgeons are only hands-on for four to five hours. If your surgery takes longer than that, you’ll have a team work on you. The lead surgeon usually tries to stay available for the entirety of your surgery, only stepping out to take breaks, get a snack or a quick rest. The other surgeons will rotate in and out depending on what their role is for your procedure.

Nurses frequently switch in and out more than surgeons do. Many nurses rotate after a few hours. Most of the time, each nurse in the OR is assigned to a specific doctor. Depending on the complexity of your operation, your surgeon may have multiple nurses assigned to him or her.

You’ll also have an anesthesiologist in the OR. His or her job is to safely put you to sleep, monitor your vital signs during the procedure and ensure you stay asleep for the entire operation.

There’s a lot going on in your OR of which you may not be aware.