OREX (Operating Room EXperiences) started in September 2008 as a new volunteer program at Highland General Hospital in Alameda County, California. It aims to take our hospital’s most dedicated volunteers and give them the opportunity to experience what surgery is really like in our OR department. Previously, Highland’s volunteers were not permitted to observe surgeries.

The program’s goals are to:

1. Provide students with a background in Operating Room procedures.
2. Give students an experience that will help them assess whether they wish to pursue surgery.
3. Establish relationships between students and surgeons.

All OREX volunteers are welcomed and supervised by Dr. Harken, the Head of Surgery at Highland. Every OREX volunteer is hand-picked through two application rounds – a written application followed by an interview. Out of approximately 200 applicants, 15 are selected to become members each year. OREX volunteers are chosen based on their deep enthusiasm for learning about the inner workings of surgery.

So, how does this program work? Every month and once a month, each OREX volunteer signs up for a surgery day, which is their very own day to observe surgeries – no other OREX members will be present. This ensures that the experience is as personalized as possible.

OREX volunteers arrive at Highland at 7:15 a.m. to attend the morning meeting for all OR residents, in which Dr. Harken presents a cutting-edge research article/topic and discusses them with the class. This allows volunteers to see how residents interact in an open environment and how fresh knowledge is integrated within surgical healthcare.

After the meeting, a resident escorts our volunteers up to the OR where they get to choose which current surgery they would like to observe. Volunteers have the entire day to soak up as much of the surgical environment as they would like. Afterwards, OREX volunteers write a journal entry of everything they experienced – everything they saw and felt, and all the knowledge they gained that day!

Each month, the best journal entry will be chosen to be displayed at this blog – so please come back every month and read about an OREX volunteer’s surgery day through their own excited and passionate words!


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