By Maggie Griffith
To be a surgical technologist and celebrate every year during our National Surgical Technologists Week is truly an honor. Surgical technologists play a vital role in patient care during surgical procedures, and it is surprising to see how few people know who we are and what we do. The normal conversation when speaking to someone about what surgical technologists do goes a little like this:
Interested Party: So, what do you do?
Surgical Technologist: I work in the operating room assisting the surgeons during surgical procedures.
Interested Party: So you are a nurse?
Surgical Technologist: No, I am a surgical technologist and assist the surgeons while they perform the surgeries.
Interested Party: Oh, so you are a doctor.
Surgical Technologist: No, I am a surgical technologist who is in charge of supplies, equipment, and instruments utilized during surgery. I help maintain sterility while the surgeon works on the patient. I provide the surgeons with the items needed for the surgery and assist them in specific procedures as needed.
Interested Party: I never knew there were surgical technologists in the operating room—I always thought you had to be a nurse or a doctor!
Because few people know what our profession does to provide safe patient care, our program at North-West College in West Covina, California, is hosting a two-day open house during NSTW. All our students are encouraged to invite their friends and family. We will be providing a demonstration in our laboratory of the sterile and non-sterile roles and tasks a surgical technologist performs; it will be exciting for our audience while also being educational. Beyond having an open house during NSTW, we plan to give our students brunches, munchies, and treats. We also provide our college’s clinical partners with something special to show our appreciation in mentoring our students as preceptors and helping to train the next generation.
Surgical technologists are important allied health professionals who perform a vital role in the operating room before, during, and after surgery. We are the extra set of eyes, ears, and hands that provide exceptional, high quality patient care. We are team members to the surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and anyone else who is involved in patient care during the surgical procedure.
When a surgical technologist asks someone to meet in the office, that “office” is almost always an operating room. It is where we live and it is where we grow! No matter how small or how extensive the surgical case is, we go in focused and on high alert. Every patient is important and we never perform our tasks with complacency. We know how to disassemble and reassemble every instrument used for our specialty. We are continuously learning from the experts—our team members and product representatives—who are valuable assets, especially when new equipment and supplies come our way. We work varied hours and shifts, on call, per diem, and are always there across from the surgeon or by his or her side.
Every year the intention of our National Surgical Technologists Week is not only to celebrate who we are, but also to educate the community! It is important they know who is there during their most vulnerable time. It is important that patients know we are putting them first, as our motto states. It is important they know we do our very best to promote safety, reduce infections with high aseptic technique standards, and expedite their procedure as we assist the surgeons with instruments and supplies. It is important the public understands there is another person who cares in the operating room besides the surgeon, nurse, and anesthesia team.
For our students, it is important to share with them what a privilege it is to be a surgical technologist and how, by taking pride in our work, we are therefore taking pride in our community; it is our community we serve.
Maggie Griffith is the program director at North-West College, West Covina campus, since 2014. She began her career as a certified surgical technologist in the United States Navy. After serving in the military, she began teaching surgical technology in 2005 and has taught in all the different aspects of the program. She is very passionate about our profession and is excited to be participating in any forum that educates and celebrates the surgical technology field.