Operating Room Nursing, Katie Curren, Huntington Hospital
Ensuring that surgical procedures are performed in a safe, timely manner
Katie Curren RN, BSN, CNOR
OR Nurse | Patient Flow Coordinator
Huntington Hospital, Pasadena
Please describe the arc of your nursing career.
I’ve always been fascinated by the human body; when I was growing up, I loved a TV series called “The Body Human.” So, I thought that I could become a nurse and work in the operating room.
In 1990, I completed a two-year ADN program and then worked on a med-surg floor for a few months before entering a three-month new grad training program. After a year, I didn’t want to commute to work the night shift downtown, so I applied to Huntington Hospital. I’ve been here over 32 years now, and I really love it. I love the OR, and I love my staff.
What’s the environment like in the operating room? Is what we see on TV or in movies accurate?
OR nurses sometimes get a bad rap because we’re fiercely protective of our environment due to sterility and patient safety concerns. We’re not trying to be mean, it’s just the gravity of the surroundings. If something gets contaminated, you must immediately correct the mistake — that’s a hard stop, and it just can’t be sugarcoated.
For the most part, we’re actually nice! As you see in the movies or on TV, there’s friendly banter, where people talk about what they’re going to have for lunch or what they did over the weekend. Of course, there are moments of intense focus, but there’s quiet time as well. It’s a great place to work. There are lots of rules we must follow, but if you’re a rules-based person, you’re going to love the OR.
Also, in the OR, you’re part of a team, which is a great comfort. You’re never solely responsible for everything, as you might be as a floor nurse. The surgeon is right there, ready to respond to questions and concerns, and on a given case, there might be an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist, maybe a resident or fellow, a scrub nurse, a surgical nursing assistant, and a certified anesthesia tech. You have lots of support.
What are the nursing roles in the operating room?
First and foremost, there’s the circulator (staff nurse), who serves as a patient advocate, makes sure the rules are followed and no harm is caused (whether through positioning, time delays, or external factors), and collaborates with other team members for the best surgical outcomes.
Then, there’s the patient flow coordinator (a.k.a. charge nurse), which is my current position. I collaborate with anesthesia, managers, and clinical coordinators, and I’m responsible for staffing the rooms and “running the board” so that cases are performed in a timely manner.