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Foreseeing the Unforeseeable: Daily Life in the Operating Room


Assistant Head Nurse Luc Binet who oversees thoracic, general and bariatric surgeries has been working at the Montreal General Hospital for 35 years. While the place has stayed the same, the practice has evolved significantly over the years – much to his delight as a professional who is passionate about his job.

From the very first days of minimally invasive surgeries, Luc showed great interest for laparoscopy, endoscopy and the all the other “-scopies”. The new tools called telescopes make it possible to perform highly precise operations with little more than a small incision in the patient’s body. That means patients feel less pain, spend less time hospitalized and recover their mobility faster – all so that they can get back to their lives as soon as possible.

“I remember a patient who was around 85 years old and who had undergone abdominal surgery. We were able to do the surgery in a minimally invasive fashion. The next day, I went to visit him and he was tying his shoelaces. To be able to do that kind of movement the day after a surgery… it’s incredible! The impact of these advances on patients’ quality of life is huge.”

Luc Binet - Code Vie

Whereas these new surgical methods raised a few eyebrows when they first came out thirty years ago, today, they are part of common practice. They do however involve a great deal of logistics. Different tools and telescopes are necessary for these surgeries, and it’s necessary to make sure that they’re in good condition, that they’re clean and that there are enough for every intervention.

“I’m a bit like a stage director. I prepare the next day to make sure that I have everything I need for the surgeries. Of course, there are unforeseen events, but we try to plan everything in advance, whether it be in terms of equipment or staff.”

For operating room nurses, new technologies are a great help. For example, laparoscopic tools have evolved a lot over time and they can now be sterilized, whereas it used to be necessary to separate their different components. Cameras are also more precise and can even offer images in three dimensions.

In the operating room, patients are under anaesthesia, which means they’re unconscious and unable to express themselves. As such, the nurse acts as their representative. Because gravity plays an important part in most procedures, a patient may be placed at precise angles and in extreme positions. The nurse will then secure him or her with gel protectors or beanbags so as to reduce the pressure points.

Care Under Pressure

Since the Montreal General Hospital receives the city’s most severe trauma cases, surgical teams must be able to adapt fast in order to respond to patients’ needs – as in the case of patients with gunshot wounds, for instance.

“I was working when the Dawson shooting happened. It was a crazy day, to say the least – but I have to say that, as a nurse, you feel good after a day like that. Because you know you did everything in your power to help your patients. I actually saw some of them again, in the documentaries that were made in the years that followed. Seeing the direct impact you’ve had on a patient’s life – that’s the best gift you could ever ask for.”

In the operating room, like elsewhere in the Hospital, nurses have a central role. On this year’s International Nursing Day, we wish to thank them for the quality care they bring to the community.

If you would like to offer vital support to the patients at the Montreal General Hospital and their loved ones, please click here. Your donations will allow the Hospital to offer state-of-the art care to the community as well as nursing training and research opportunities.

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