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Pocket guide assists medical professionals to pick right tools

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A single surgery can require use of more than 500 tools, and it’s important that surgical technologists don’t mix them up.

These workers, sometimes called operating room technicians, assist surgeons by preparing the operating room, arranging equipment and helping during procedures.

Until now, there’s been no comprehensive study guide for students or practicing professionals.

Susan Sheets, chair of the surgical technology and imaging science department at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus, saw that void and filled it.

She recently published a 3- by 5-inch pocket guide, “Surgical Notes: A Pocket Survival Guide for the Operating Room.”

“Consult it at the start of your day or between cases to jog your memory and build your confidence,” reads the publisher’s description. “From aseptic technique to effective communication and everything in between, here’s the on-the-spot guidance you need to survive in the OR.”

The book will be required for surgical technology and nursing students across all Ivy Tech campuses and will be sold to students across the nation through Amazon, Walmart and Barnes & Noble, among other retailers.

Sheets knew she wanted to create new resources for her students, but she said she wanted to wait until she secured her masters degree to publish the book so she had more validity.

She graduated in 2008 with her master of science in nursing degree from South University in Savannah, Georgia, and has since been recognized for her experience teaching operating room procedures.

She was recognized as the 2009 Didactic Educator of the Year by the Association of Surgical Technologists and has pushed her students to pass the Certified Surgical Technology examination at a rate of 100 percent for the past three years.

Under her leadership, the campus was also honored with the Merit Award by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting in 2012.

Placement rate from the Columbus program is around 85 percent, Sheets said.

“Whoever wants a job gets a job,” she said.

The students are also happy with the education they receive from Sheets.

“I couldn’t get my gown on right on the first day of classes,” said Misti Baltimore, a student who took her certification exam just a few weeks ago. “I would have laughed if you told me how much I learned from where I began.”

Sheets met with representatives of F.A. Davis Company — a publishing company that specializes in pocket guides and medical textbooks — at a conference, and they took her up on her book idea. They paid for Sheets to get a new computer to work on the book, they sent her to a boot camp in Philadelphia and they guided her through the editing and production process.

“A lot of it, I had no idea what I was getting into at the beginning,” she said.

She wrote, rewrote and then rewrote again.

Once the words were done — which took several rounds of editing — she and F.A. Davis moved onto the visuals. They sent her to a campus in Daytona, Florida, with a professional photographer to illustrate several techniques and tools described in the pocket guide.

The book will be available for purchase starting Aug. 28, meaning her next class of students will have access to the guide when they start classes that same week.

“They’ll be thinking, ‘Where has this been all my life?’” Sheets said.

While she will receive royalties for her book — her the publishing company is hoping to sell 50,000 copies over a five-year period — Sheets said helping students will be her real reward.

“For this to really help my students be better at what they do and have better confidence, that will be a success,” she said. “I want someone to say this book really helped them.”

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