story and photo by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Surgery is Silvana Richardson’s life calling. She has tried other departments, but surgery has always caught her attentive spirit the most.
“You become really connected with the people you work with,” Richardson said.
Everybody has a role and understands their part in patient care in the operating room at OU Health Edmond Medical Center, said Richardson, a registered nurse serving in the OR.
“I’ve always loved surgery. I like to get the patients and help fix what we come to do. I know we make a difference,” Richardson said. “In surgery we rely on each other. At any point anybody will chip in and help. It’s a very good team and it’s like a family.”
She has made friendships among the staff, including the surgeons. Working with the same doctors and nurses affords her the opportunity of reading their minds, which makes the workflow very cohesive.
“This is what you want. I learn a lot,” she said.
She may assist with 10 gallbladder surgeries in one day. Every day is different but it’s the same pace in a synchronized environment.
Becoming a nurse was always her aspiration. At 10 years of age, Richardson immigrated from her native Columbia to New Jersey. Richardson and her sister would later go to surgical school together. Her sister was the first one to become a nurse. And she set her course toward becoming an RN.
She spent 12 years as a surgical tech in Oklahoma before graduating from nursing school at Western Oklahoma State College, located in Altus. She worked in med/surg for three years in a different hospital before working in surgery. She has been with OU Health Edmond Medical Center for two years.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said.
Richardson’s workdays are set with precision. She gets all the supplies the surgeon needs according to the preference of the doctor, she said.
“Even though they’re doing the same surgery, they might want different stuff,” she continued. “So, we always make sure we have everything we need. The scrub person will count, scrub in and sit at the table so we can get all the towels, instruments, charts, and everything. After we have it all done and we have everything we’re going to need, I’ll go see the patient, introduce myself, check to see if the consents are done.”
Richardson will explain what the surgical team will be doing and answer their questions. The OR is cold so she will provide patients with more blankets. The patient will receive their anesthesia and be moved to recovery.
Due to their patients’ sedation, a surgical nurse will have a short span of patient interaction before a patient is greeted by a recovery nurse. However, Richardson tends to share a joke with a patient when first meeting them.
“It makes them smile a little and become less stressful,” she said. “It’s always a little stressful to have surgery to begin with. So, we always try to be compassionate during the little bit of time we get to spend with them.”
Richardson often learns of the progress patients have made following surgery. Throughout the years, opportunities have come for her to develop lasting friendships with patients. At times a patient will come back to thank her for being their nurse. They will chat for a while and at times decide to meet again.
“I have made friends with patients and it’s very rewarding to know you helped make a difference,” she said. “We’ve had some of our nurses have joint replacements. And you see them before and after. So that’s meaningful to see.”
She is paired with a group of surgeons who mainly do robotic surgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, ENT, urology, and general surgeries.
Her view of the world has become more acute by participating in hundreds of surgeries. Being a nurse can impact a nurse’s philosophy of life and make them a stronger person.
“It has made me appreciate life and not take anything for granted,” Richardson said. “I have seen patients come in and by the time it is too late, they have wasted so much time. When I see that, I live everyday as if it could be my last one. I live my life to the fullest, try to be as nice as I can, as helpful as I can.”
Richardson tries being as cordial as possible with new nursing students doing their rotations. She recalls when she was a new nurse. Richardson said she likes teaching and enjoys seeing how students learn.
“I like it because at one point, they’re the ones that are going to take care of us,” she said. “And we definitely need nurses.”