Surgical Nurse: Interview with Sr. Priscilla De Guzman, RN, BSN, CNOR

My Specialty

Surgical Nurse: Interview with Sr. Priscilla De Guzman, RN, BSN, CNOR

By Working Nurse
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WORKING NURSE: What is your nursing specialty and where do you work?

SR. PRISCILLA DE GUZMAN, RN, BSN, CNOR: I work as a registered nurse in the dedicate neurosurgery/neurotology operating room with specialty is in neurotology services. This entails surgical procedures to treat disorders of the ears and adjacent structures. It involves care of patients with retrocochlear or skull base lesions such as neuromas, meningiomas, glomus and facial disorders.

I work at St. Vincent Medical Center and am privileged to work with surgeons from the House Clinic, which is the largest center in the world for treatment of acoustic neuromas. I am board certified as an operating room nurse.

Tell us about your career path and why you chose your specialty.
As a Catholic nun in the Philippines, it was by virtue of obedience that I had the chance to work in different nursing fields: in a leper colony, in a school as a clinical instructor, in various nursing departments in a hospital. But I loved being in the operating room most. Where I am now is a path I believe God has opened for me to share in His healing ministry.

Before we continue with the interview, please tell our readers about your extraordinary experience nursing in a leper colony.
One of the missionary places where the sisters worked was in a leper colony on an isolated island in the Philippines, and the lepers with serious disabilities or other health problems were cared for in a hospital owned by the government. Around 1977, I was assigned to a female ward of 20-25 patients, functioning like a regular staff nurse: giving medications, changing dressing, hygiene care, even feeding those in the advanced stages whose fingers and hands were lost to cartilage deterioration. It was always heartbreaking to see some patients without hands try to feed themselves.

The disease was perceived to be highly contagious at that time, so within the island a partition existed to segregate the lepers and their families from the non-lepers, and strict isolation was practiced whenever we returned to the non-leper side of the island. One of the interventions perceived to be helpful, but very painful to witness, was isolating newborns from mothers stricken with leprosy. The children were raised in a nursery and taken care off by the sisters and other non-leper staff.

Emotional and spiritual intervention was a very important aspect of nursing care there, and my assignment to the leper colony was part of my formation as a sister. I was truly impressed by the deep faith and hope in God shown by these patients, and the transformation I went through to find God in the midst of suffering and pain, I owe to those patients.

At present leprosy is no longer perceived as highly contagious, so patients are no longer isolated and are free to leave the colony.

What is a typical day at St. Vincent?
My day starts with this prayer: “May everything I do begin with your inspiration, may I carry on my task with your guidance and protection, and in you reach its completion.”

The workload is determined a day, sometimes even a week, ahead of time. This gives us time to prepare ourselves mentally as well as plan for what the patient may need for surgery. Setting up for a procedure requires coordination with other staff on the O.R. team as well as other care disciplines. We also have an interview with the patient, allowing us to further assess his or her needs — a very critical part in data gathering — and help ease any anxiety.

Although a very standard routine is followed, the environment the patient is in will always be high-risk, and a constant anticipation of patient safety demands that we be equipped to respond immediately to any situation.

What are your favorite aspects of the job?
I enjoy the coordination, interaction and work relationship among team members. The care we give is a team effort and each individual plays an important role in the patient care. Despite the high-risk situation the patient is in, we are able to create an efficient environment that allows us to function calmly in a “controlled, organized chaos.”

There is also a sense of completion with the work done in every surgical procedure. We get to see immediate results at times, especially when a patient’s hearing is restored or having patients smile with equal symmetry after a brain surgery. We share with the rest of the O.R. team the sense of gratification in seeing a positive outcome.

Least favorite?
The workload can be physically exhausting, having to stand for long periods of time and sometimes foregoing breaks.

What are some aspects of your position that make it unique compared to other specialties?
We do our nursing care while patients are asleep. They may not recognize or appreciate the work we do, but we recognize the trust they give us, to do our work the best we could.

In your opinion, what personality type is best suited toward O.R. nursing?
Some common things among all of us nurses in the O.R. may be the ability to act fast and have a sense of organization. I also notice that most O.R. nurses are charming, smart and always fun to work with.

What attracted you to nursing in the first place?
It was the kind of training I felt was close to preparing myself to become a nun.

What advice would you give to be a successful O.R. nurse?
Develop good habits of organizing work, and stay healthy and strong. Your choice of specialty depends on personal interest and inclination, but in my case, I kept my heart open in prayers and allowed God to lead me where He wants me to be, and where I fortunately am happy to be.


St. Vincent Medical Center

For detailed description of neurotology diseases and treatment:

Association of Operating Room Nurses

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