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Published by admin on 19th January 2011

A Surgical Tech is the unsung hero of the Operating Room. It falls on our shoulders to exercise flawless sterile technique, know all of the instruments and supplies that are used in the OR, have a solid understanding of entire surgical procedures, and a good grasp of human anatomy. There are hectic and sometimes overwhelming times as you are learn this job, but they are well worth it.

I have been a Surgical Tech since 2002, when I graduated from the Naval School of Health Sciences in Portsmouth, Virginia as a junior Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. Since then, I have worked in a large hospital, small clinic, and field operating room in Western Iraq treating combat casualties. Throughout these times and experiences I have developed a taste for the pillars of knowledge that spell the difference between a bad tech, decent tech, and an excellent one. I want to share this information to those of you who are considering this career or who have just started out so that you can take a slight shortcut in learning and focus on the fundamentals.

Sterile technique is one of the vital cornerstones of this profession. In broad terms, this means that a Surgical Tech utilizes all of his or her education to reduce contamination of the surgical wound. The two most important reasons why we obsessively pay attention to sterility is infection reduction and cross contamination. The patient has given us a humbling level of their trust to be sure that their wounds stay clean and they are never exposed to another patient’s diseases. These ideas are central to medicine in general, but Surgical Techs must take it to a particular level of insanity in the interest of the patient.

In order to carry this out, we learn specific ways of washing our hands, the order we put on our gown and gloves, the cleaning of the area to be operated on and draping in a sterile fashion. During the surgery itself, we are charged with maintaining a sterile back table and being aware of possible routes of contamination throughout the procedure. We keep an eye on the surgeons and all of the instruments to be certain that they do not touch anything non sterile and stay free of as much bacteria as possible.

A second fundamental trait that is common to great Surgical Techs is their extensive knowledge of human anatomy. The reasons for needing to know the human body may not be what you think. For surgeons, they must know anatomy because they are doing the cutting, drilling, and suturing. Technologists use this information to mainly determine what instruments will be used next.

Specific instruments are designed by scientists and surgeons with specific types of human tissue in mind. A surgeon will use a more aggressive instrument on tough fascia compared to a delicate small vessel that is easily torn. A lot of tissue looks alike once the bleeding has started and it takes a baseline of knowledge combined with a little experience for a tech to know the appropriate instrument to hand up. In much the same way, suture is chosen based on the tissue being sutured. For instance, a skin closure requires a finer suture with a different type of needle than is used in a peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) closure.

Another vital piece of information that a great Surgical Tech will know is the entirety of the surgical procedure they are participating in. During school, it is assumed that we will work in a hospital where hundreds of different surgeries take place and we must study and complete reports on a bulk of them, usually over a hundred.

This is so critical because it allows us to anticipate needed supplies and instruments before the case. If an operating suite is well prepared, it will reduce the time that the wound is open to bacteria. It also lowers the time that a patient is exposed to anesthesia drugs that they then must filter out of their body.

In my experience, the Surgical Techs whom I have considered subject matter experts are the ones who rigorously study these principles and strive to always expand on this foundation. At times it is easy to lose focus and become slightly complacent. But, I like to keep in mind that all of the patients on the table are someone’s husband, wife, son, daughter or friend and treat them exactly as if they were my own.

My name is Jared Broker and I have been a Surgical Tech since 2002, where I learned the trade in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. I am always adding my expert insight into this exciting and fascinating career on my blog: surgical-tech.org so stop by and visit some time.

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