From October 27-29 I was MC for the 43rd Annual Conference of the Perioperative Nurses College of NZNO. I practised saying perioperative about a hundred times beforehand, even though, to begin with, I really had no idea what it meant: I just thought it would be nice to swap jeans and gumboots for frocks and heels, a transition not without glamour-associated side-effects.
Hair and make-up done, driving to the venue, I kept catching sight of myself in the rear-view mirror and freaking out. Who is that woman? It's you, you dozy mare!
Perioperative Nurses are theatre nurses, Florence Nightingales doling out a kind smile and a reassuring pat on the hand to patients about to undergo a traumatic life experience. While the 12-year-old surgeon is telling you how awesome what he's about to do to you is, medically, Perioperative Nurses are the ones who make you feel that, within reason, nobody's going to laugh at your bits or draw a moustache on your face while you're unconscious. Doing all the literal and metaphorical heavy lifting, they put up with poor pay, long nights staying awake eating crap food and drinking worse coffee and you never hear of them striking.
They are the unsung heroes of our healthcare system.
The conference was attended by nurses of many stripes and specialties, and I'll tell you what, they have very strong stomachs. Unflinching, they watched a presentation on endoscopic scoliosis surgery from Dunedin Hospital's world-beating dream team of Alan Carsten, Ginny Martin and Jason Henwood which had me staring at the wall, thinking Halloween had come early and breathing heavily, much to the amusement of those seated next to me.
I was tempted to put my head between my legs but, wearing borrowed Charmaine Reveley and about to field questions from the audience, I thought it might muffle my voice.
The exhibitor stands were filled with objects that looked like they could clear drains, mix concrete or rescue a wedding ring from the back of the drier. There were enough beds and clamps and needles and things to easily set up a botox clinic as a sideline, but for some reason they didn't.
I wandered the trade floor picking things up and asking what they were (this initially caused some confusion, as everybody knows what a ureteral access sheath is, apparently). However, my curiosity peaked after someone mimed hammering something long and pointy into a hip bone. Anaesthesia was invented for a reason. Sometimes it's better not to know.
Nurses are a tight-knit bunch, mostly, I think, because they speak a language the public don't. They can toss off "neuromodulation in homeostasis" without blinking, and because they see some truly awful stuff, they can hardly rock up to a dinner party and share work stories in a getting-it-off-your-chest manner (people are eating).
Hospital work stories aren't weird "Jenny from Sales is copying my outfits" more "we had to amputate the leg." which can put you off your prosciutto-wrapped asparagus; meaning nurses tend to keep the secrets of the operating theatre to themselves. It's a very stressful occupation. Not like in the 1970s, when the first Perioperative Nurses conference was held in Dunedin. Back then, nurses wore the white uniforms and stockings of schoolboy fantasies, the job was, by all accounts, rather fun and, if you were of a mind to, you could smoke INSIDE the hospital.
Maybe this pressure is why nurses inhabit an alternate reality when it comes to a sense of humour. An example of this is the fact that the Perioperative Nurses College journal is called The Dissector. The first, second and third time I heard this, I nearly wet myself. Nobody else seemed to find this remotely funny yet they were in fits over Wellington having the highest number of patients presenting with foreign objects inserted inside them this year (Dunedin had the fewest, in case you're wondering. We just have better things to do, I guess).
So whether you've fallen on a bust of Beethoven or chopped off all your toes not looking where you're shovelling (and there, but for the grace of God, go I), know that in your moment of need, the lovely nurse telling you that everything's going to be all right has just spent three days topping up the skills to keep that promise.
Worry instead about what you're going to tell your mum.
About the Author:
Lisa Scott was the MC at the 43rd annual PNC Conference. A satirist and lifestyle columnist, her career has been shaped by the countries she has visited. Returning from the Middle East in 2009 to find all the jobs were gone, she decided to become a writer. Since then she has won a variety of awards, including a Qantas in 2010 and Magazine Publishers Association Journalist of the Year in 2011. Her first book, Travels with my Economist was pubiished in 2012, her second, Kindness and Lies came out in October 2014. Arrested and deported from America by Homeland Security in July 2015 while on her way there to write a travel book, she has had no choice but to continue to write columns for Next magazine and the Otago Daily Times, as well as regular features for North & South and NZ Life & Leisure.
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|Title Annotation:||pnc conference report; annual conference of the Perioperative Nurses College of New Zealand Nurses Organisation|
|Publication:||The Dissector: Journal of the Perioperative Nurses College of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation|
|Article Type:||Conference notes|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2016|
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