9 April 2021
My Perfect Week in Theatres

Jenny Chong

Hi, my name is Jenny Chong and I have hemophobia.

For someone who watches the gory scenes in Chicago Med peeking behind her fingers, standing in a theatre watching live surgery is probably not a ‘perfect day’, yet here I was in Main Theatre 3 as part of the operating theatre’s ”Perfect Week”.

‘Perfect Week’ is a national initiative to improve quality of patient care and prevent avoidable delays and cancellations in theatres. My role was an observer – to better understand clinical pathways, process and team performance, whilst lending a fresh pair of eyes to operational efficiency.

The peri-operative team prepped our schedules with military precision, promptly despatching us in scrubs, caps, crocs and clipboards to the theatres. I was initially allocated to orthopaedic surgery, as they thought I might relish the adrenaline and action. I could see them make a polite, concerted effort not to roll their eyes when I enquired if I would see scenes of sawing and drilling. At risk of the surgical team being distracted and having to treat an additional patient with smelling salts (plus this was after lunch), I was re-assigned to an endometriosis operation.

Until you’re in an operating theatre, you never truly appreciate the specialised equipment and high exacting standards required to maintain a safe service: from the weighted metal window louvres to prevent backflow and keep infection out, to the high-resolution medical-grade screens for laparoscopy magnification. Despite COVID-19, our hospital continued investing in systems for quality improvements. I was glad to see the investment in ‘SAFERSleep OR’ pay off – it electronically collated time-stamped patient logs, recorded drug dosage and allowed the anaesthetist to focus on the patient and emergencies.

The surgical team is like a family – they have spent enough time together to understand each other’s methods, preferences, personalities and quirks. This is essential to work as a high-functioning team under extreme pressure. I saw their camaraderie; the mutual support and warmth; the proactive anticipation of what the others needed; the finishing of each other’s sentences. I felt privileged to be welcomed into their sanctum, to watch the team work on the human body and give the patient a better quality of life, to watch the consultant train the next generation of surgeons – the hours just flew by.

I came away with a much better appreciation of the intricacies of surgery, the importance of high quality patient care and the finely-balanced operational pipeline to keep things running efficiently.

It was a perfect day for me after all. I am even looking forward to ‘Perfect Week 2.0’!

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