FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska-- It's been shown thousands of times in movies; the surgeon stands over a patient focused on the surgery being performed. The surgeon sticks out a gloved hand and without looking up asks for scissors, forceps or suction. Across from the surgeon an unknown medical assistant, picks up the instrument being called for and efficiently places it in the surgeon's outreached hand.
The surgeon often gets the credit of performing a successful surgery, but without that second, unknown assistant there would be fewer successful outcomes for patients going through surgery.
That second, unknown assistant is a surgical technologist, or surgical tech, and how well they perform their job is crucial to the team effort it requires to perform a successful surgery.
Sept. 19 through 23 marks National Surgical Technologist Week, and Bassett Army Community Hospital is celebrating the often overlooked work performed daily by these dedicated professionals.
"Surgical tech duties can vary and at times they can be complicated," said Sgt. 1st Class Veronica Charatain, the non-commissioned officer in charge of perioperative nursing services at Bassett ACH. "However, with proper training, the most difficult cases become easier and part of the job, day in and day out."
Being detail oriented is a must for a successful surgical tech, said Charatain.
"To be truly successful, surgical techs have to be detailed oriented with the medical equipment used, understanding the medical terminology and procedures that are done, and have strong communication skills. The role of the surgical tech goes well beyond handing instruments to a surgeon during surgery," said Charatain.
A surgical tech's work begins before the patient is rolled into the room. At Bassett ACH, the surgical techs are in charge of the sterilization process for the entire hospital. They ensure instruments are sterile and therefore safe to be used in the surgical room.
In preparation of a patient having surgery, techs prepare the sterile field using sterile technique in a room, set up and inventory surgical instruments, assemble surgical equipment and make sure equipment is working properly. Their skillful pre-surgery preparations protect patients from surgical site infections, malfunctioning equipment and unneeded delays during procedures.
There are, on average, eight surgeries a day completed at Bassett ACH and each of those surgeries can require between 30 and 125 instruments.
"Techs not only learn what instruments are used during each particular surgery, but a good tech knows the order those instruments will be used," said Dr. (Maj.) David Wilson, chief of surgery at Bassett ACH.
On the completion of a surgery, techs are responsible for performing a count on sponges and other supplies with another member of the surgical team to assure nothing remains inside the patient, ensuring the safety of the patient.
The 17 surgical techs currently at BACH are all military personnel; diligent professionals whose main focus is a smooth, safe surgical experience for patients.
"Our surgical techs are the glue that keeps the team together," said Maj. Marva Wilcox, chief of perioperative nursing services at Basset ACH. "We cannot do our job without them and while we appreciate their services all year, we especially want to recognize them during this week."