The Ultimate Survival Guide to NHS Theatre Life

Working in an NHS theatre is exciting, rewarding and a totally cool career choice.

If you’re just starting NHS theatre life, then it can be quite overwhelming. You have to be made from something a little bit different to work in theatre. One day you could be catching a leg in an amputation, the next you could be huddled around in excitement awaiting the delivery of a baby via C-section. You have to be ready for anything.

Some people simply can’t hack it. It’s certainly not your average 9-5 but if you’re ready for the challenge, then it can be done. You can survive and you’ll absolutely love the work that you do.

To help you start with a bang, here’s our Ultimate Survival Guide to NHS Theatre Life. If you’ve got any more tips for newbies, tell us in the comments below.

1. Don’t be squeamish

You’re going to see things that other people can only imagine, so be ready because it does get messy. If you’re in an operation and think you’re going to pass out, have a sit down so you don’t have far to fall. The surgeons haven’t got time to deal with a head injury as well!

2. Make plenty of notes

Get a notebook and write down instructions, procedures, different surgical techniques and preferences. Anything that will help you get through your list. If you know exactly what each surgeons wants and how they work, it will help you make a great first impression. You will be more prepared and ready for anything that is thrown at you.

3. Look after your feet

Keep plenty of spare socks in your locker. Things can wet, especially in urology, and you don’t want to be squelching around theatre in wet socks for the rest of the day.

4. Teamwork makes the dreamwork

Working well together is vital and makes a productive theatre and will improve your NHS theatre life. Pitch in where you can and as much as you can. There might be times when you have to do things that you don’t feel you should, but just get on with it and it will get recognized.

5. Master your switch-off mechanism

How you manage your stress is important and you need to find your own way to switch off after a shift, so you don’t take things home. This might be taking a quick stroll around the car park, pulling over in your car for 10 minutes, going for a run – whatever works best for you. Master your switch off mechanism and you will have a healthier work/life balance.

6. Stand up for yourself

Don’t let people walk all over you, because they will try to. Stand up for what you believe in. The main priority is taking care of your patients. If you feel something isn’t right, then speak up. You’ll be more respected in the long run.

7. Use the loos wisely

Once you’re scrubbed, you could be in theatre for hours, so make sure that you go to the loo beforehand. You don’t want to get caught out when you’re at the operating table.

8. Be happy

Things can be tense and stressful in theatre, as you would expect in such a high-pressure environment. Having a good sense of humour will bring a breath of fresh air into your department. Being positive and happy will help you get through your day, and you colleagues will respond to this.

9. Bring snacks

Bring plenty of snacks into work to keep in your locker. Finding time to eat regularly on your shift can be difficult when you work in theatre because you never know when you could be hit with an emergency. Having some snacks handy can help keep you fueled before your next big job.

10. Enjoy it

Our most important survival tip. Working in theatre in the NHS is a great career. Something different, exciting, interesting and weird happens every day. Give your new challenge everything you’ve got, work hard and embrace the ups and downs. You will love it.

Have you got any more tips to give to someone just starting their NHS theatre life? Tell us in the comments below.

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