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Carol Belle plays a vital role in Thoracic Surgery. As a surgical technologist, Belle provides direct assistance to attending surgeons and fellows during operations. Earlier this week, the case she assisted with was a patient undergoing a pneumonectomy that lasted six hours.
“I’m there to hand off the instruments during the various stages of the surgery and handle the specimen,” Belle said. “I’m there up close and personal with the surgeon and patient.”
Belle, who began her BWH career as a nursing assistant on Tower 14, is a graduate of a program developed by the Operating Room and Human Resources to develop surgical technologists from the hospital’s existing workforce. Margaret Doyle, RN, director of Surgical Services, collaborated with Massachusetts Bay Community College (MBCC) to create a “Grow Your Own” program. The first class began in August 2003 and trained two employees from OR Central Processing and a PACU patient care assistant. The three grads of the first class still work in the BWH OR. The program was made possible through a Health Care Skills Shortages grant.
Belle, a member of the second class, enrolled in academic classes for 2.5 hours four days a week at MBCC in Framingham while immersed in clinical training in the OR. Belle and her three classmates are working in the BWH OR after completion of the program.
“I loved being a nursing assistant on Tower 14, and I love being a member of the Thoracic Surgery team. It’s a different set of challenges,” Belle said.
This year, BWH is joining forces with other Boston hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area and the Boston Health Care and Research Training Institute to offer this program again as part of BWH’s Workforce Initiative. The Hybrid Surgical Technologist Program is offered through MBCC. This program allows employees who qualify to continue to work while going back to school to become certified surgical technologists. BWH provides financial support to employees while they complete their education and training and fulfill the significant demand for surgical techs.
David J. Sugarbaker, MD, chief of Thoracic Surgery, said this training program prepares its students very well for challenges in the OR. “Surgical techs like Carol play a critical role in the operative care of our patients, and at BWH, we have the ability to complete the toughest cases because of the superb training and skill they bring to the table,” he said.
For Belle, the transition has meant an increase in salary, new challenges and the excitement of joining a new team with the same commitment to caring for patients. “It’s a great experience. I encourage anyone to do it,” she said.
To learn more about this program, attend one of the following informational sessions: May 16, 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. outside the Cafeteria; May 18, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Cabot Atrium during the Employee Career Event; or May 31, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., One Brigham Circle, 4th floor, room 4-002-B; or contact HR Workforce Development at 617-954-9600.