NINA SHAPIRO, MD | PHYSICIAN
The other day, I was operating on a little girl with a congenital ear abnormality. Not life and death stuff, but delicate surgery nonetheless. My surgical scrub technician was someone with whom I hadn’t worked before, and I asked him if he was enrolled in the operating room nurse training program, as many of the new folks are.
“No, I’m just a tech.”
I stopped what I was doing and replied: “You may be a tech, but you’re not just a tech.”
All too often, those of us working in hospital systems are quick to pull rank: attending surgeon, department chief, nursing supervisor, you name it. These titles are important, and do carry with them substantial experience, expertise, and knowledge. But just as often, we forget how critical certain members of our team are on a daily basis.
Merriam-Webster defines technician as “a specialist in the technical details of a subject or occupation.” Indeed. As a surgeon, I am lost without my specialist in technical details. An anesthesiologist is breathless without an anesthesia specialist. A cardiologist would lose her rhythm without her electrocardiography specialist in a subject, and a radiologist is in the dark without his specialist in the technical details of the occupation. All “just techs.” And the list goes on. Hospitals, clinical laboratories, and doctors’ offices would be nowhere without these skilled specialists.
Many surgical scrub technicians go on to nursing school, and combine their technical expertise with enhanced knowledge and expertise in patient care. For those who choose not to enter nursing, being “just a tech” is more important than they may know.