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US, UK partner on surgical practices

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A Liberty Wing Airman is rotating with the operating room staff at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St. Edmunds, England.

The hospital expanded their on-going partnership with the 48th Medical Group to include surgical technicians, which provides additional training and exposure to surgical cases.

Being tasked with life-altering responsibilities, it is critical for surgical technicians to receive the highest level of training to ensure readiness and effectiveness in the operating room.

Tech. Sgt. Amy Templeton, NCO in charge of the operating room for the 48th Surgical Operations Squadron, is the first Airman selected to serve both the Liberty Wing and the West Suffolk Hospital as a surgical technician.

Like many Airmen, Templeton received her Air Force Specialty Code in Basic Military Training.

“I remember telling my mom about the job I got and she said ‘oh, that’s what your father does’,” Templeton said. “I knew he worked in the hospital but I had no idea what he did. I was excited to have that connection with him.”

Surgical technicians assist with all aspects of surgery in the operating room. The technicians are relied upon to keep things running smoothly by preparing patients for surgery and organizing surgical equipment.

Although Templeton didn’t choose her AFSC, she has held the position of NCOIC of three medical divisions on previous assignments and amassed specialized experiences from her time being a Ground Surgical Team surgical technician.

“This is a unique opportunity in itself because we’re overseas,” said Templeton. “There are particular differences in how we do things and how the West Suffolk Hospital does things, so every day is a valuable learning experience.”

According to Col. William P. Malloy, Hospital Administrator assigned to the 48th Medical Group, “Airmen assigned here are generally in good health because they are medically pre-screened prior to their permanent change in station. Thanks to our partners, the NHS gives us a great healthcare delivery venue for uniformed medical and dental personnel to sustain operational clinical competencies on a diverse population of patients.”

“Typically, we send our Airmen to the Sustained Medical and Readiness Training Course in the United States to get this proficiency training,” said Senior Master Sgt. Melissa Johnson, superintendent of the 48th SGCS and pioneer of the integration program. “The SMART Course is a wonderful training resource, but the opportunity to have our technicians scrub off-base is a unique experience to add to their repertoire.”

After considering the numbers, Johnson found the option to integrate surgical technicians into host nation hospitals significantly more efficient. The integration program provides continuous real life training and prevents the loss of manpower, while simultaneously expanding upon the partnership between the U.K. and U.S.

“When we send the technicians to the SMART Course, we lose them for two weeks,” said Johnson. “When they return, it may be months before they get to use the skills they acquired at the course in the operating room, and some may never get to utilize those skills at all unless they deploy.”

While Templeton is the only surgical technician embedded into the rotation thus far, both the 48th MDG and the WSH hope the integration program will grow to include more staff members.

“I have a whole team of amazing surgical technicians ready to jump at the opportunity to go,” said Johnson. “Tech. Sgt. Templeton is a great representative of not only the 48th Surgical Operations Squadron, but the entire medical group and Royal Air Force Lakenheath.”

According to the staff at WSH, Johnson’s remarks have proven to be true and offer glowing acknowledgement of Templeton and what she brings to the table.

“Amy has been an absolute asset to us,” said Karen Gedge, a surgical team member at West Suffolk Hospital. “I could imagine how difficult it may be to work in a hospital where the medical language may be different, but she’s done so well that everyone just loves to have her on the team.”

Irene Fretwell, WSH Day Surgery Unit Clinical Service Manager, said the opportunity to learn from Templeton has not been squandered.

“You can often hear Tech. Sgt. Templeton discussing the differences between the hospitals she has worked in with her colleagues,” said Fretwell, “It’s just fantastic, and she’s already firmly part of the team.”

According to Fretwell, WSH hopes that sometime in the future, staff may be able to rotate with the 48th MDG much like Templeton has with the WSH.

Though Templeton’s time with the WSH will be coming to a close next year, she has left a lasting impression on the West Suffolk Hospital surgical team members.

“I’m very pleased with the partnership we have with the U.S. Air Force,” said Stephen Dunn, chief executive of the WSH. “I am excited to see all the shared learning and am very proud our hospital can be a part of that.”

This partnership not only enhances the readiness of 48th SGCS surgical technicians, it also increases the knowledge, expertise and best health care practices shared between the 48th MDG and its U.K. counterparts. This union fosters delivery of world-class healthcare that patients can count on whether on base, off base or deployed.