Nursing: Behind the Masks

Bedside nurses become familiar faces to a patient recovering from surgery. But the operating-room nurses on whom his life once depended are at most only masked, nameless figures, seen dimly, if at all, through an anesthetic haze. Last week, at the usually unremarkable annual meeting of the Association of Operating Room Nurses, five of them were in attendance, unmasked and uncapped—and they were hailed as celebrities. They were the head nurses who had played key roles in the world's first five transplants of human hearts.

Fellow nurses jostled for their autographs. Much...