Air Force Featured Stories

Making the cut: Aviano's surgical team

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Question, scrub, wash, set, prep, drape, brief, cut, stitch and cleanup.

It sounds simple when general surgery is broken down into several verbs, but the truth is, there's a group of Airmen with a particular set of skills and decades of education in charge of ensuring the safety, comfort and health of the patients at Aviano Air Base.

The Airmen are a dedicated surgical team of the 31st Surgical Operations Squadron who lead the charge to provide first-rate surgical healthcare.

"We have to offer the best healthcare possible so our Airmen can complete the mission," said Tech. Sgt. Eugenia Harrison, a 31st SGOS surgical technician.

The 31st SGOS operates on a variety of different routine surgeries, such as: cesarean-sections, vasectomies, gall bladder removal, benign mass removal, orthopedics and biopsies for cancer. To handle these varied tasks, a surgical team operates like a professional sports team -- each player contributes a specific role.

The surgeon acts as the quarterback of the team. They know the procedures and instruct their team on how to perform the surgery. While they are important, they must depend on their teammates for a successful surgery.

The roster changes depending on the surgery and the teammates can include: a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a surgical technician, an operating room (OR) nurse and a general surgery physician assistant.

A CRNA provides anesthesia care for surgeries to ensure patients are comfortable and under sedation for the duration of the procedure. If an anesthetist were to make a mistake, there are serious consequences of death or extreme pain, said Capt. Nicholas Bancroft, the CRNA for the 31st SGOS.

"When I do my job, I'm making a lot of decisions based on a patient's medical and health history," Bancroft said. "I have to figure out how their history will affect what kind of anesthetic I give them and what they need to be pain free."

The surgical technician, and the only enlisted service member in the operation room, has several different jobs before and after surgery. The technician must review the case before surgery, make sure all tools used are available and sterile and assist with the surgery if necessary.

"A surgical technician tries to make the surgeon's job easier in any way possible," said Senior Airman Sylvia Coon, a 31st SGOS surgical technician. "We have to be on our game in the operating room and be ready to give the surgeon anything they need."

An OR nurse is responsible for providing professional nursing care to patients undergoing surgery, conducting post and preoperative visits with patients. An OR nurse will also chart patient information, specimens, medication, implants and fill out the nurse notes of the patient's chart during and after a surgery.

The surgical team has the medical experience and unequivocal teamwork to take a complicated in-depth process and turn it into simple health care for Aviano AB.

"When our Airmen come in injured, it's a good feeling knowing I can help out. I know this is how I fit into the overall mission - keeping our (Airmen) safe, comfortable and whole," Bancroft said.