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My Story as Orthopaedic Theatre Team Lead

I am Cherily. I am the Orthopaedic Team Lead in a private hospital in Northampton since 2019. I came to the UK in 2014 and started working in my current hospital in 2017. Although I work mostly in Orthopaedics as the lead for Spine and Upper limb, I also do other specialities whenever necessary. I work as a scrub and circulating practitioner but I'm also a trained Surgical First Assistant.

My typical day depends on where I'm allocated for the day. With my position, I do both clinical and admin work. There are days where I'm allocated to lead an actual theatre list and there are instances where I need to fulfil admin jobs such as ordering requested kits, coordinating with surgeons and companies within my specialty as well as looking after other demands for my role.

When I am allocated to be in theatres, my typical day would be running the list whilst also scrubbing or assisting for surgeries. My responsibilities include making sure that the list runs smoothly and that all equipment and implants are readily available as necessary . There are days that we run into problems, so as the team leader, I have to ensure that the issues are resolved in a timely manner. For instance, there are times that I have to coordinate with other hospitals if we need certain kits or instruments for a particular case. We have to always make sure that we’ve exhausted all the options ensuring that we are providing safe and quality care to our patients at all times.

Theatre nursing is not everyone’s cup of tea. I chose to be a theatre nurse because I’ve always found the Operating Room fascinating, even looking back when I was a student. Orthopaedics is a heavy and labour intensive job and not everyone likes it, but I do. You can never know too much, and I find that working in Orthopaedics would never bore me because there is always something to learn, may it be a different system or a new technique, there is just more opportunity to learn and that’s what I be continuously challenged.

Just like with any role, it requires being able to adapt. You should be able to adjust with your environment as the needs and demands change. You should also be able to work well with people and most importantly, you should be able to inspire. I think my role as a team lead is to be able to lead others to be better versions of encourage, criticise if needed. I believe criticism shouldn’t be intimidating and disrespectful but in a way that encourages growth.

My role as team lead also necessitates the ability to think outside the box, be able to troubleshoot problems as they arise and be able to take responsibility if you make mistakes. This role demands the ability to decide autonomously but to also know your limits and when to ask for help when you’re stuck. Other than the skills I already learned when I was still a Theatre Practitioner, like patience, being organised, time-management skill, my current role has taught me a lot about leadership. I am not the best, and I still make a lot of mistakes but I know that I’m learning and progressing every single day.

I never really thought I wanted to climb up the professional ladder. I liked what I did and I think I was already good at it. But several people encouraged me to apply for the role, some of them were mentors I worked with and I respected. It was a turning point for me when other people believed in my capabilities, I started believing in myself more. Hearing feedback from my colleagues that I’d do a great job, I felt that I wanted to show them that I can. So I went for the team lead role and got it.

The most obvious benefit would be the financial aspect of it. But beyond that, you do notice that there is a significant change in how people treat you. You would feel more respected by your peers but I guess that comes with the role. People tend to see you in a different light and value your opinion more. You also have a certain level of autonomy in making decisions that benefit your specialty.

Personally, the most challenging part of the role for me was getting out of my shell and being more vocal and not being intimidated by others. I am naturally an accommodating person and I like to please people but with this role, sometimes you have to go against what others want, and that requires a bigger voice for people to listen. You don’t go into any role already fully competent. You learn on the job. And the decisions that you make always have an impact on someone else.

Also, the mere thought of being able to do your job well is in itself a challenge…because you have to be good at what you do as others will be depending on you for answers. However, if you do make mistakes, make sure you learn from them because that’s the best way for you to move forward. Staff shortage is also a challenge at times as my admin work is affected if I was pulled back to help inside the theatres. Losing my admin time affects the timetable I have set for myself to fulfill orders, organise loan sets and other tasks needed to be done. It is hard when you’re expected to have output but not given the time for it, because nobody else can do what you have to do.

I can say that this job is not easy, it is competitive and stressful at times. You’re lucky if you’re surrounded with good people around you, guiding and helping you, but there will be moments you will encounter people who want to see you fail. There are pros and cons that come with this position but I can ascertain that this role can help you grow professionally. It challenges you and helps you become better at what you do. And if you show competence, then the respect from other people goes with it. There are people who are happy to stay where they are, but there are people who want to move forward and if you are the latter, then this role might be a good fit for you.

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