An operating room is chock-full of depressingly educated surgeons, who've spent maybe a dozen or more years in college, med school, and residency. But the other folks in the OR are the surgical technologists like me, otherwise known as the scrub techs, who need no education beyond high school. In my state of Oklahoma, you don't even need any certification, though my hospital encourages it. There's just a quick entry course on surgical technology (20 percent "Here's what the body looks like" and 80 percent "Go to the hospital and watch people"), and you're in.
Learning on the job works fine most of the time. Most. But, every so often, outside surgeons will arrive for something like organ harvests -- stressful, urgent affairs that always for some reason happen in the dead of night -- and start throwing instructions back and forth in the OR. That's when I suddenly realize I don't know the actual names of the instruments.
Jochen Sand/DigitalVision/Getty Images
The problem is that everyone has different slang names for the tools, so what this guy is calling "the lion's jaw" is something I just know as "the lobster claw" (the standard name, it turns out, is the heavy point-to-point reduction forcep -- you can see why they invent nicknames). Then there's the instrument I eventually learned is a periosteal elevator. I just called it a wooden handle and only decided I better find the real name when a particularly dirty doc started winking and confusingly asked about his "small woody." Plus, there are a bunch of tools I still can't name. I'm convinced a few of them are literally just someone's soup spoons. I just call them "Dr. Smith's forcep" or "Dr. Jones' bone hook," after whichever surgeon likes them most.