Many of our patients have no idea who all is in the operating room with them when they go in for their procedure, and that's really no surprise. It's very common for multiple people who are not vital to the procedure to be present - some may even be there just to learn, or manage equipment being utilized. When you have surgery, a team of medical staff helps the surgeon during the operation. Who is on the team depends on the type of surgery. Most teams include the following professionals:
A surgeon has finished 4 years of medical school and 4 or more years of special training after medical school. Most surgeons have passed exams for board certification. The American Board of Surgery is the national group that gives this certification for general surgery in the U.S. Some surgeons also have the letters FACS after their name. This means they have approval of the Fellows of the American College of Surgeons (FACS).
An anesthesiologist has finished 4 years of medical school and 4 years of special training in anesthesia. Anesthesiologists may get additional training in certain surgery specialties. This might be neurosurgical anesthesia or cardiac anesthesia. The anesthesiologist takes part in all 3 phases of surgery: before, during, and after.
Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
The nurse anesthetist gives you anesthesia care before, during, and after surgery or labor and delivery. The nurse constantly watches every important function of your body. He or she can change the anesthesia medicine to make sure you are safe and comfortable. A nurse anesthetist has a bachelor's degree in nursing and at least one year of experience as a registered nurse in a critical-care setting. He or she also has at least a master's degree from a nurse anesthetist program. Nurse anesthetists must pass a national certification exam to become CRNAs.
Operating room nurse or circulating nurse
Registered nurses are registered and licensed by each state to care for patients. Some nurses focus on a certain field such as surgery. The operating room nurse helps the surgeon during surgery. Operating room nurses are certified in various areas of surgery. Nurses must pass an exam to be certified.
Surgical techs assist with the surgery by setting up a sterile operating room. They get supplies and surgery tools ready. And they hand the surgeon the tools he or she asks for. They must pass an exam to be certified by the National Board of Surgical Assisting (NBSTA).
Residents or medical students
In many teaching hospitals, resident doctors in training and medical students may be a part of the surgical team.
Physician assistants practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. They may act as an assistant to the surgeon. Or they may close incisions with stitches (sutures) or staples.
Medical device company representative
Sometimes surgeons will have a representative from a company that makes medical equipment in the operating room. Such equipment might be artificial joints, spine stabilizers, or pacemakers. The representative can help the surgeon with sizing and function of the equipment.