Cosmetic plastic surgery nurses in the operating room

In this series of posts, I thought it would be useful for you to meet the other members of the plastic surgery team who help me with your cosmetic surgery in the operating room and surgery center.

Plastic surgery nurses

Every plastic surgeon who is lucky enough has a team of nurses that he or she works with regularly. Whether in an outpatient surgery center or a hospital, there are registered nurses, trained and licensed by the state, who help the plastic surgeon with the surgery.

The role of the cosmetic surgery nurse

The operating room nurse’s role has changed over the years. When I first started in plastic surgery over twenty years ago, there were usually two nurses in the operating room. One was opposite me, on the other side of the patient, the surgical assistant, and the other was in the room as the circulating nurse.

Surgical assistant cosmetic nurse

The nurse who was directly helping me had the role of surgical assistant. No special training was required for this position. The skills were learned in nursing school and “on the job.” Often, the assisting nurse would change positions with the circulating nurse.

The job of the assisting nurse is to hand over the instruments to the cosmetic surgeon and help in retracting and assisting in any other way necessary.

Over the past decade this role has been taken over by non-nurse health professionals specifically trained as surgical assistants. The main reason as far as I can see is that it costs less than having a nurse; and, in all truth, the nurse was not being used effectively in that capacity.

The circulating nurse in cosmetic surgery

The circulating nurse is the person who is the patient advocate in the room and the one that is in charge of

  •  the patient’s safety and comfort in the operating room
  •  medications and drugs
  •  equipment monitoring and utilization
  •  handing the surgical assistant instruments, sutures and other surgical materials
  •  keeping track of amounts of tissue removed or implants added
  •  record keeping and billing for the surgical center

Obviously, the circulating nurse has a number of important functions, and it is these that require her to have a nursing degree and to be licensed.

The functions of the plastic surgery nurse, either as assistant or a circulator, are vitally important to the success and smooth running of the operating room and the eventual result of your cosmetic procedure. The establishment of a surgical team that your cosmetic plastic surgeon is comfortable with, and who are in turn comfortable with the surgeon’s routines and preferences, will ensure your best plastic surgical result.

Here is part 2 of this series

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS

Leave a Reply