After I qualified as a nurse, I worked in the operating theatres and the things I enjoyed about working as a theatre practitioner were the variety and complexity of the work. I also liked being able to focus on one patient at a time, and working as part of a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, anaesthetists, operating department practitioners, radiologists and nurses.
I then had the opportunity to train as a surgical first assistant where I got to surgically assist across different specialties, and from there I did a Master’s degree in Advanced Nursing Practice, followed by Surgical Care Practitioner training.
When I first qualified as a surgical care practitioner (SCP), I worked in colorectal surgery but now my time is split between maxillofacial surgery and the upper limb team in orthopaedics. There’s no such thing as a typical day because it changes according to the needs of the specialty and team I’m working with. But any day can include: leading ward rounds and supporting the junior doctors on the wards; reviewing patients in clinic; assisting in theatre; undertaking surgical procedures; training and developing the team in various aspects of patient care; and attending meetings and undertaking audits.
This is an exceptionally rewarding role. It’s allowed me to develop professionally so that I’m more confident and have a greater understanding of the patient experience because I look after patients at all stages of their care.
When the surgical care practitioner role was first established, there were concerns it would inhibit junior doctor training. But I believe it enhances training, particularly in the operating theatre where the SCP is able to provide expert practical assistance while the surgeon trains the junior doctor.
I’d recommend the role to anyone! It’s challenging in a number of ways but exceptionally rewarding. The main elements of the role are team working, flexibility, the need to be conscientious and good communication skills linked to sound clinical knowledge and an understanding of personal limitations – all of which lead to high standards of care for patients and healthy working relationships.