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Do Surgeons Really Need Properly Trained Surgical Assistants?

Do Surgeons Really Need Properly Trained Surgical Assistants?

By Dan Bump SA-C, CSFA: At first blush this seems like a blog post aimed at surgeons. Don't get me wrong. Surgeons would benefit greatly from reading this series of posts. So, do tell all your surgeons about it. It might open the eyes of some to a better way. But this is really meant for Surgical Assistants and those who aspire to become Surgical Assistants.

So the question is 'do surgeons really need properly trained Surgical Assistants?' To get to the right answer, envision yourself as an entrepreneur. Will you be more successful if you guess at the needs of your potential clients or if you know their needs even better than they do? The answer should be obvious to you. Now, if your client is a surgeon, what does he need? Guessing wrong could be disastrous to your business. Knowing would be better, don't you think?

Even some surgeons aren't 100% clear on what they need from an assistant. They may have been without a properly trained assistant for so long they've learned to make do. But 'making do' isn't the same as getting what you really need. So, often a surgeon will go to the OR manager to ask for an 'extra pair of hands.' Is that all a surgeon really needs, just an extra pair of hands? If you know the real needs of your surgeons and provide the solutions, you get a very powerful competitive edge when going after more business as a freelance surgical assistant or going after that higher paying surgical assisting job.

An extra pair of hands can hold retractors, suction, and cut suture. Believe it or not, at ACE we still hear of hospitals that pull in the janitor to scrub in and be the extra pair of hands! A properly trained Surgical Assistant is so much more. He helps the surgeon be the best he can be, makes the surgeon look good, makes the case run more smoothly, keeps the surgeon out of trouble, and influences better patient outcomes. Wow! What a huge difference. If you were the surgeon, which person would you choose? Most likely a properly trained, professional Surgical Assistant.

Here is one example of how you can help your surgeon be the best he can be – by helping him focus . Start with this one key insight. Surgeons are very judgmental. You know this. They have to be in order to protect their patients. On their first case with you, they watch your demeanor and your surgical performance. The surgeon will make one of two judgments. One is, 'Great! I wander what else I can let this person do?' That is what opportunity looks like. The surgeon liked what he saw and wants to give you a chance to show him more of what you are really made of.

On the other hand, what if you don't perform well? What if you don't look like you know what you're doing? What if the way you perform surgical skills seems strange or odd? He may kick you out of the OR or insist you're never assigned to his room again. But usually, he'll just treat you like an extra pair of hands – only let you do things less likely to do harm. Still, in order to protect his patients from you, he'll keep one eye on what you're doing and one eye on what he's doing. This split attention is where mistakes happen (think texting and driving). As a properly trained Surgical Assistant, you can earn his trust so your surgeon can focus like a laser and keep both eyes on performing the surgery. The surgeon won't do just 'good work.' He'll get to 'be his very best surgeon-self' for every patient under his care. You get to be a difference maker.

In my next post, I am going to discuss, not my program or other programs, but what kind of training you would need if you are going to be the kind of assistant who can help the surgeon be his best, make him look good, make the case run smoothly, keep your surgeon out of trouble, and influence better patient outcomes. Most surgeons wouldn't be able to teach you all these lessons. But the lessons will be in upcoming blog posts and you'll be in a much better position to decide what you need to advance your career whether you are already assisting in surgery or you want to in the near or distant future.

I want to say sincerely that I look forward to any comments you may add to this blog based on your interest in the subject, your special expertise or experience, or your need for any clarifications. You'll help me grow as a surgical assistant blogger and I'll be able to be my very best self for you. Let's make this a conversation that we'll all enjoy, learn from, and keep us always looking forward to the next one.

Are you interested in becoming a surgical assistant? Contact ACE Surgical Assisting today to request more information and to learn more about advancing your career.