As a Surgical Technology instructor and clinical coordinator, I came to this field knowing that I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives in a medical aspect. I enjoy the gratification of making someone feel better. I moved through the ranks as Surgical Tech, evening shift, day shift, specialty tech, and finally heart scrub. Eventually, I was asked to come teach at the Platt College Oklahoma City Central Campus. In all my time in this field, whether it be in the hospital or in the classroom, I have found that there is one thing critically important to the profession that can’t be found in any textbook, and that is communication.
As humans we are able to communicate in many different ways. One such way is by asking questions. When I’m teaching a class, I welcome the students to question what I am telling them. If I don’t say a medical term correctly, I want them to tell me. I feel that I am encouraging a culture of critical thinking. If new information is presented, they should pull from all of their knowledge and experience to evaluate if it is right or wrong. There are so many ways to do our job as surgical technologists, and I want the student to be able to have an open mind and ask why and how the information can benefit them and make them a better scrub. These are the kind of people we need, not only in this profession, but in the world.
When I go to sites like Facebook or other forums for Scrub Techs, they are constantly telling each other what they are doing wrong. They quickly pull rank by saying how long they have been doing it and dismiss any new ideas. I think if we could find a way to talk to each other by asking questions, such as, why they did something a certain way, or why they feel that their way is a good practice, we could accomplish so much more. We should communicate with each other in a positive manner and with an open mind. We should look past judgment and take with us the good.
Listening is also an important part of communication. Active listening can build better relationships. Being able to listen effectively makes for a productive employee, and a productive employee is a desirable employee.
Communication can be uncomfortable when you disagree with someone and have to confront them. There are many ways to do this without anger or conflict. The first thing to do is edit your thoughts before speaking. Just coming out and telling someone that they are wrong will most likely make them mad. Instead, find a way to clearly and concisely let them know that you do not understand the way they did something; it will make the person more open to speak about their actions. Second, you should always communicate with a good attitude. When engaging in a conversation with someone, your body language and attitude need to match.
My final word of advice would be to speak up and speak often. Communication skills are paramount to a team-oriented career like surgical technology. As stated by M Leonard, S Graham, and D Bonacum “Effective communication and teamwork is essential for the delivery of high quality, safe patient care.”
We live in a world where social media and technology allow us to hide behind a screen and never look people in the eye. That’s why I feel such a sense of responsibility to teach the importance of communication. Many errors can be avoided by speaking up for what is right. Minor misunderstandings in relationships can be avoided with better communication. Have the courage to speak up. Have the passion to learn and truly understand what you do. Have the drive to be the best you can be and enjoy what you do every day.
Written by: Nola Jones, CST & Surgical Technology Instructor – Platt College OKC Central