There are so many specialties in surgery, some I know better than others. Most surgical techs will work in a variety of specialties throughout their career. Some specialties you will hate, some you will tolerate, and then there will be the ONE you fall in love with.
A Little Background
As a student I loved the idea of trauma, vascular, and heart surgery. Everything else seemed boring to me. There was a thrill, an adrenaline rush, with these particular specialties, and I am an adrenaline junkie! During my second round of clinicals, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work with the vascular and heart team. I was in LOVE with it! I was able to scrub in on CABG cases, fem pops, and carotid endarterectomies to name a few. I knew this is where I would end up after graduation.
With my new-found love, I didn’t want to scrub anything else. I could tolerate most other specialties and would happily scrub them to gain the knowledge, but I HATED ortho. Looking back I can’t really pinpoint why I hated it so much other than it was very intimidating for me. This really doesn’t make a lot of sense because the vascular/heart cases are so much more involved, but regardless that is how I felt.
After graduation, with no experience, it can be hard to find a job so I took the first offer I could get … a surgical center that did primarily orthopedics. I told myself to just get through a year then I could look elsewhere for a vascular/heart position. To my great surprise, I fell in LOVE with ortho and completely lost all interest in the vascular/heart specialty. Now, 3 years later, I am ortho coordinator at my facility and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Successful Surgical Tech
Good surgical techs are highly sought after, and if you can rock it you can make good money and have skills that can take you anywhere. I am going to give you a few tips that helped me stand out as a surgical tech. Every place you go will be different. Every surgeon will do things differently, use different systems, and have different preferences, but I will give you the foundation to prove your worth and stand out from the rest.
#1 Be Humble
A lot of surgical techs come to a new facility with an I Know Everything Attitude. Don’t do this, no one likes a know-it-all and to be honest NO ONE knows it all! No matter how much experience you have there is always room to learn and grow. Be humble, it’s OK to be proud of your skills, show them off but do it with finesse. Don’t talk about all you know and what you can do, SHOW it. Be eager to learn and ask lots of questions. Be a sponge and absorb all the knowledge you can. Watch how each surgical tech does things differently, take notes and acknowledge the pros of each. Then you can pick and choose what works best for you.
#2 Your Notes, Your “Brain”
Especially when you’re a new surgical tech or starting at a new facility, always have a notebook. You should be keeping detailed notes of your surgeon’s cases and preferences. Generally, the preference cards at the facility have only basic information which will only get you so far. There is just too much information to retain for procedures and surgeons. Organize your notebook by surgeon or procedure so you can easily find the information needed. Make sure to note the things that aren’t on the general preference card like which needle driver the surgeon prefers.
#3 Study Up On Your Cases Before You Enter The OR
Even after 3 years at the same facility with the same docs, I run into cases that I’ve never heard of or never done. The key to looking like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t is preparation. When I encounter something new I look it up the night before. YouTube is a great resource as well as google. If you know what system you will be using, look up the technique guide on the company’s website. Your Reps are usually a great resource, get to know them and ask for tips on how to use their product.
#4 Know Your Instruments
Know the basics, then study up on instruments that are frequently used in your particular specialty. I still encounter new instruments all the time, I take mental note, add it to “My Brain” and may even add a small drawing so I remember what it is. If you have a chance, head to the sterile processing department and inspect the sets. Get to know what is in them, play with them so you know how they work and how to put them together if needed.
#5 Be Kind, Make Friends
The entire surgical department must work together day in and day out. Be kind to EVERYONE, we all have a role to play and not one person or position is better than another. Be helpful in every way you can. Your co-workers will appreciate it and in turn be there to help you when you need it. Make friends, you don’t have to be chummy after work but having a good working relationship with the people around you makes for a much happier, healthier work environment. Your surgical team: Doctors, Nurses, Techs, PAs, FAs, Reps, Instrument Techs, CNAs and any others I may have missed, are your support group. Lean on them when you need help and do the same for them.
Now You Know The Basics
I truly hope this information has helped you. I want you to be able to walk into the OR confident that you will shine in your career as a surgical tech. Put the patient first, LOVE what you do, and never stop learning. If you have any questions please subscribe to my blog and comment below. I am here to help and support my fellow surgical techs in any way I can! If you enjoyed this post check out The Surgical Tech: How To Stand Out Part 2!