Story by Douglas Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton
They are called the backbone of the departments where they work, continually providing unsung surgical support.
Yet for the week of September 17-23, 2017, the surgical technologists assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) were recognized and feted during National Surgical Technologist Week
“Simply put, our surgical techs are the backbone of this department. Without them we would not be able to provide surgical care to our patients. We are so very thankful for everything that they do,” said Lt. Cmdr. Shelley Oehrlein, Perioperative Services head.
There are approximately 25 hospital corpsmen with the surgical technologist – generally referred to as surgical techs – specialty rating at NHB. They handle various duties in the Main Operating Room (OR) and in other clinical areas such as Ears Nose (and) Throat, Dentistry, Ophthalmology, Labor and Delivery, and the Sterile Processing Department.
Oehrlein attests that on a daily basis the surgical techs take care of a number of vital responsibilities that are necessary for every procedure.
“They clean, disinfect, and ensure proper sterilization has taken place for all gear used in the clinics. They pull all the instrumentation and consumables required for each surgery that we perform and help the circulating nurse prepare the room for the case. They then scrub in to set all the gear up, while maintaining sterile technique,” explained Oehrlein, adding that in the Main OR, the techs assist the surgeon during all surgical cases.
Upon completion of every surgery case, the surgical techs take charge of all the used equipment to prepare for the disinfection and sterilization processes. The entire process is repeated for each additional case.
“There is no other job I have ever had that comes close to doing what a surgical tech does. We are part of the key people in surgery. It’s amazing to have someone’s life in your care and being able to help with a successful surgery procedure that really can’t be done without us,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Lance Worster, who has worked at NHB for almost four years.
A typical day for surgical techs in the Main OR has them scrubbing up and preparing what’s required for an average of two to five surgical cases.
“Without them we would not be able to provide surgical care to our patients. They provide continuity of care from within the clinic to the operating room assisting the surgeon with the case. Our surgical techs are also in house 24 hours to provide all surgical care required, to include Labor and Delivery. We are so proud and grateful to work alongside with them,” stated Oehrlein.
According to compiled data, there are approximately 1,000 surgical techs in the Navy and nearly 59,000 in the U.S. Yet Navy surgical techs differ from their civilian counterparts by serving on all types of platforms, in various duty stations and on a number of assignments. They can be found from shock trauma teams near a combat zone to fleet surgical teams helping with humanitarian assistance missions to a military treatment facility (MTF) like NHB.