WRNMMC, Bethesda, MD –
“I became a surgical tech because it gives me an opportunity to have a hands-on role in a patient’s healing process. From the instrumentation’s decontamination all the way to the point of use, every step is critical in ensuring positive patient outcomes,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Charles Cambern, a surgical technologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
Cambern’s patient-focused sentiments are shared among his fellow surgical technologists at WRNMMC, as well as surgical techs throughout the country, which is why Sept. 19-25, 2021 is observed as National Surgical Technologists Week.
Surgical technologists ensure operating rooms run smoothly. They’re responsible for properly setting up the room, arranging necessary equipment, prepping patients, and even assisting physicians during surgery.
“What’s rewarding to me about this job is knowing what I do matters,” Cambern added. “Attention to detail is emphasized to us on a daily basis because patients and their families are relying on our team to ensure they receive optimum care with sterile, functional equipment. Being on a military installation makes this especially meaningful, because oftentimes, our patients are our brothers and sisters,” said the Navy corpsman.
Army Spc. Mariah Bergeron has been a surgical tech for five years and echoed Cambern’s sentiments. She said what she finds most rewarding about her job is “finding out that your patient is living a healthier and happier life. I love following patients’ post-operative stories and [seeing] they’re doing well.”
Bergeron explained that her family members who are surgical techs, and the television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” were motivating factors in her becoming a surgical tech. More importantly, she added, “I loved the thought of being a part of a team that could help save a person’s life.”
Navy Hospitalman Andrew Rice said he was part of a health program in high school when he shadowed different people within a hospital, which is how he was exposed to surgical technologists. “The most rewarding part of being a surgical tech for me, is the amount of knowledge you can gain outside of being a tech from the other members of the surgical team within the operating room,” he added.
Working on a Labor and Delivery ward at a previous command, watching a surgical team perform a C-section and seeing what the surgical tech did during the procedure, motivated HM3 Kaitlyn Green to become a surgical technologist. “I wanted to help people,” she said.
Green added she finds it especially rewarding helping wounded warriors as well. “Each time you finish a surgery, you have helped the surgeon relieve some of the patient’s pain.”
Cambern explained he was also first exposed to some of what a surgical tech does by observing a C-section. “The room’s energy was like orchestrated chaos, and every step of the procedure was urgent yet smooth,” he recalled.
“It’s rare to find a slow moment in sterile processing or the operating rooms, which can take adapting, but it’s just the nature of what we do and how we operate,” Cambern said.
Bergeron agreed. “Constantly having to adapt to unexpected situations [is challenging].” She added that she always keeps in the back of her mind, “Every little thing you do can affect the outcome of the operation.”
Although National Surgical Technologists Week began in 1984, the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) states that surgical technology became an official career path during the 1940s because of the demands of operating rooms in World War II. Some trace the role of the surgical technologist to the battlefields in World War I as well as to World War II when the U.S. Army used “medics” to work under the direct supervision of the surgeon. During the same period, medical ‘corpsman” were used in the U. S. Navy aboard combat ships.
The AST explained surgical technologists require “good manual dexterity, an eye for detail and physical stamina. This career is a good fit for anyone who likes to have a high level of responsibility and can handle stressful situations with ease.”
Although the day-to-day duties of surgical technologists may vary from job to job, generally wherever they are found, surgical techs:
- prep the operating room for surgery
- ensure equipment for surgery is working and ready
- gather and sterilize instruments for surgery
- get patients ready for procedures
- pass instruments and supplies to surgeons during procedures
- count and inventory surgical supplies
This year’s theme for National Surgical Technologists Week is “Surgical Technologists, Instruments of Excellence.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an estimated 100,000 surgical technologists work in the United States. The BLS projects that between 2018 and 2028, employment opportunities for surgical technologists will grow at a faster-than-average rate of nine percent. This increased demand is expected to create nearly 10,000 new surgical tech positions over the 10-year timeframe.