Going into surgery, whether for a routine procedure or more invasive operation, is a daunting situation for even the bravest of souls. Hospitals and surgery centers put together highly-skilled teams of doctors, surgeons and nurses to ensure that all goes well during a surgery. Part of that team, perioperative assistants, help the surgeons, doctors and nurses before, during and after the surgery. Perioperative assistants fall into the field of medical assistants, an industry in which women make up almost 94 percent of all workers, as of 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A perioperative assistant helps out during all stages of the surgery, starting by prepping the patient for the procedure, transporting them to the operating room, shaving areas of the body if necessary and sterilizing the patient. Prep work includes telling the patient what will be happening during surgery, keeping him calm and working with the anesthesiologist to put the patient under. Once the patient is under, the assistant positions the patient based on the surgeon’s recommendations and the type of surgery, padding pressure points like elbows, knees and the face and keeping body parts positioned so that circulation is not impeded.
During the surgery, a perioperative assistant ensures that a surgeon’s instruments and tools are always in sight and within reach, to make his job easier. This requires setting out the tools ahead of time, as well as handing them to the surgeon as needed and getting out new tools if necessary. The anesthesiologist discusses with the assistant what temperature the patient should remain during surgery and the assistant sees to it that the patient stays warm or cool enough, as well as maintaining an overall safe, clean and healthy environment. Under the supervision of a nurse, the perioperative assistant might take vital signs like heart rate, pulse and temperature.
A perioperative assistant’s job continues after the surgery as well, where she applies bandages, casts and coverings. The assistant transports the patient to recovery rooms and may also apply ointments, creams or other meds to wounds and surgery incisions as needed. To prepare for the next patient, the perioperative assistant removes all used instruments and clean bedding. She ensures that all sinks, counters and other operating room surfaces are sterilized, clean and ready for the next procedure.
Other perioperative duties include maintaining patient charts and taking inventory of the operating room, restocking items as needed. Some perioperative assistants perform clerical duties for operating room staff, such as organizing charts, running errands, answering phones, paging staff members and keeping records. Perioperative assistants must stay up-to-date on skills by participating in continuing education courses and on-the-job training.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2012 Household Data Annual Averages
- Association of Surgical Assistants: Surgical Assistant Job Description
- Healthcare Source: Perioperative Assistant
- University of Michigan Jobs: Perioperative Tech
- Bright.com: Perioperative Care Assistant
- Lee Memorial Health System: Perioperative Assistant
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.