NEWPORT NEWS — Not everyone can say they've made a difference in someone else's life after a long day at work.

Kari Rocke can.

surgery (daily press)Rocke is a surgical technologist at Riverside Regional Medical Center who plays a vital role in the operating room on a daily basis.

"A lot of people don't know about surgical technologists or what exactly we do," said Rocke, who graduated from Riverside School of Surgical Technology in 2008. "We're responsible for keeping things running smoothly in the operating room during whatever surgery is going on."

Some of those duties include preparing the room for surgery by laying out all the necessary surgical instruments on the appropriate trays, and making sure they know what each is for, as well as what might be used in case one of them doesn't work, said Ginny Rawls, director at Riverside School of Surgical Technology.

A good knowledge of anatomy and physiology is also required, in addition to promoting patient safety and being a driving force behind the surgeon.

Most of the time surgical technologists are never thanked by the patients they serve, unlike nurses and doctors who come face to face with patients in the hospital.

"By the time our patients get to us they've been anesthetized, so they have no recollection of us or what we've done in the room," said Rawls.
When people ask Rocke what she does for a living, she simply tells them she's the "scalpel person."

Not getting the recognition from the patient for all of her hard work and dedication in the operating room doesn't deter Rocke. It's just the opposite.

"Patient care is the most rewarding part of what I do," she said. "Whether I'm helping deliver a baby by Caesarean or removing a tumor from a terminally ill patient, knowing I'm helping improve the quality of their life, I know I've made a difference that day."

One way surgical technologists do get the recognition they so often go without is through Surgical Technology Week, Sept. 18-24. During this week, the profession is promoted to the public and students and technologists are thanked for their hard work.

The most challenging part of being a surgical technologist, Rocke said, is the constant need for anticipation.

"The ability to be able to anticipate anything that might happen in the operating room, and having things ready for that, is huge," she said. "You never go into the operating room without learning something new."

Overall, it takes about 30 minutes to set up an operating room for surgery.The trays can have anywhere from 20 to 100 surgical items on them, Rawls said.

The surgeries themselves can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 12 hours."The No. 1 thing about what we do is taking care of the patient from the moment they come into the operating room," said Rocke.

"Whether it's a warm blanket they need or monitoring their blood and urine levels to make sure they're doing well during the operation, our No. 1 goal is helping the patient have a successful surgery."

By Shannon Humphrey (Daily Press)


Published: September 22, 2011