When most people think of the operating room (OR), they picture doctors performing surgery. However, getting to that point takes lots of preparation. OR technicians and on-call student hourlies help ensure operating spaces are prepped and ready for any surgery.
“They are like the superheroes behind the scenes,” says Meenu Verma, associate director and hospital administrator for UW Veterinary Care. “They work throughout the whole cycle of the surgery, from prep to clean up.”
UW Veterinary Care relies on OR staff to help surgeries run smoothly. OR technicians work full-time during the week, while student hourlies, made of both undergraduate and DVM students, fill in during on-call hours across weekends and weeknights. There are two teams, one for large animal and one for small animal surgeries.
“We have a very unique experience because UW Veterinary Care is a tertiary referral hospital. I’ve gotten to see a lot of special, detailed surgeries that they wouldn’t normally do out in general practices.”
Both student hourlies and OR technicians work to collect and sterilize equipment, set up the operating room with specific tools needed for the surgery, help clean up after the procedure, and prepare for surgeries the next day. Whether it be a Great Dane, rabbit, or bird, OR staff are well-versed in the equipment and preparations needed for every
“We shave the animal and help get them situated in the OR and set up on the operating table. After that, we open instruments, tie surgeons into surgical gowns and maintain sterility,” says Veronica Magsamen, a third year DVM student at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine and lead student hourly for small animal surgery.
Magsamen says the position has helped her more deeply understand what she learns in classes and prepared her for exams on surgical instruments. It has also given her self-assurance for her first experience conducting surgery, which starts in DVM students’ third year with spaying and neutering.
“It’s cool to learn about a surgery in class and then be able to see it in person,” she says. “We have a very unique experience because UW Veterinary Care is a tertiary referral hospital. I’ve gotten to see a lot of special, detailed surgeries that they wouldn’t normally do out in general practices.”
Promoted to lead student hourly in the spring of 2022, Magsamen manages the other on-call student hourlies, serving as a resource to help them find instruments and organizing schedules. Looking ahead to her fourth year of the DVM curriculum, where veterinary medical students spend much of their time in clinical rotations in the veterinary hospital, Magsamen says the experience has increased her confidence in the OR and helped her establish relationships with hospital surgeons.
“Fourth-year is a very nerve-wracking experience,” she says. “When I walk into the OR, I’ll feel confident. I understand the flow of surgery and how each part of it plays a different role.”