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A real eye-opener

Visitors see OF during tour of hospital

Visitors see OF during tour of hospital

November 13, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Without backless gowns, needle jabs and insurance cards, visitors to Washington County Hospital found relief for their burning curiosity during a behind-the-scenes tour Sunday.

"They've never seen where I work," said nurse anesthetist Leslie Reese, who showed her 5-year-old son, Garrett, how to measure his heart rate and blood pressure on an operating room machine.

More than 60 people, including hospital staff members and their families, visited the operating wing during its 13th annual open house. The hospital is celebrating Perioperative Nurse Week, public relations coordinator Nicole Jovel said.

"It's just a way for the community to see what they normally wouldn't get to see," said Jovel, who spoke in a large room where patients are taken before surgery.

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In a general operating room where two gowned staff members discussed knee replacement surgery, a group of teenage and younger girls fired off questions. They wanted to know if gymnastic injuries could force them to get knee replacements, and whether the man-made hardware could set off alarms in airports.

One person asked if the nurses would have to see blood.

According to first surgical assistant Peggy Hardinge, the open house began with the intent to show people some of the hospital's 12 operating rooms, areas most people normally would enter only under sedation. She noted that few people cross the hospital's "red line," which marks the boundaries of the surgery area's sterile zone, fully aware of their surroundings.

"Even people who have been beyond that red line to have surgeries are normally medicated, so they don't really have a chance to see what they do," Hardinge said.

Outside an operating room being used for an eye surgery demonstration, hospital staff must scrub in a huge metal tub. Inside the room, an eyeball stared up at a microscope. The candy treat still wore its white-foil wrapper, decorated with veins.

Other candy eyeballs that visitors were invited to take filled baskets on the side of the room.

According to surgical technologist Jackie Plume, the hospital typically performs eye surgeries on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, though it takes no breaks for emergencies. Surgery to repair a detached retina can take 60 to 90 minutes, she said.

According to operating room nurse manager Heather Sigel, about 80 staff members, including about 30 registered nurses, work in the operating wing.

Surgery portrayals on popular television shows get some details right, said Plume, who sat in front of a monitor displaying the enlarged view of the fake eyeball.

"When the doctor says, 'Give me a scalpel,' I'm the one who hands him a knife," Plume said. She wore a black cap covered with pictures of eyeballs.

Sigel's daughter, Ashley Sigel, of Needmore, Pa., said she has gone to previous open houses, but she is not contemplating a career in nursing.

The 13-year-old said she wants to do something "businessy" and stay away from the more gruesome realities of life behind the red line.

"That sort of grosses me out, but I like what Mom does," Ashley said.

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