Surgical Technologist: Reading the minds of surgeons

These knowledgeable members of the operating room need to think critically and stay one step ahead.

When voice recognition software started to make its way into the medical transcription field, Michelle Johnson thought about a career change.  

After going back to school and becoming a surgical technologist, she felt right at home in the operating room at Fairview Southdale Hospital. For good reason — she was hearing the same procedures, instruments, and medical language she’d been transcribing for more than 25 years. 

"I often wondered what the procedure was or how it was performed, but now I’m fortunate to experience it in person,” Michelle says.

In the operating room

At first Michelle thought surgical technologists just handed instruments to surgeons. Yes, that’s an important part of her job, but she’s responsible for much more. She's an integral part of the operating room team, supporting doctors, nurses, and patients during life-saving procedures.

“I work with the circulating nurse to prepare the operating room suite before surgeries,” Michelle says. “I gather the needed equipment, supplies, and instruments; make sure the layout of the operating room is configured appropriately, and collaborate with colleagues throughout the surgery."

With tools going well beyond scalpels, surgical technologists know hundreds of medical instruments. Michelle is proud of being able to anticipate what will happen next and what the surgeon will need.

“I’m always trying to think one step ahead, rather than waiting to be told what to do,” she says. “I like to believe that surgical technologists are responsible for setting the tone during surgery, by making sure everything runs smoothly."

Michelle is called upon to use her great organizational skills and attention to detail at every turn.

"I also hold retractors and assist in closure by cutting sutures and applying dressings," says Michelle. "After surgery, I help remove supplies like drapes, tables, and used instruments. I also disinfect equipment and get ready for the next surgery.”

Beyond her call of duty

Michelle’s also a big advocate for her patients and their family members, making sure everyone has what they need during what can be a hectic and stressful situation.

Patients in the operating room are at their most vulnerable,” she says. “Many are scared, and some are crying and their hands are shaking. I comfort my patients and ease their anxiety by rubbing their hand, making eye contact, and reassuring them they’re getting the best care. It's why I love my job."

Whether she's holding a patient's hand or holding retractors, at the end of Michelle's day, she knows she's made a difference in her patients' lives.

Did you know many jobs in health care, including surgical technologists, don’t require a four-year degree? If you're looking for a new step in your career like Michelle was, connect with our recruiting teams and explore openings at Fairview and HealthEast

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