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Langley surgical team goes 'purple'

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley on Dec. 11, 2018 to perform an operation.

Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse, and Army technician, the team was organized to perform a Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function.

“It’s always a great experience working with different branches in the operating room where we are able to learn from each other and share different perspectives,” said U.S. Army Spc. Travona Parker, Specialty Care Unit surgical technician.

Falling in line with the Tidewater enhanced Multi-Service Market, providing health care in a joint environment works to improve readiness by ensuring that health care providers have the capabilities they need while providing patients with convenient access to care.

At the end of August 2018, Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center closed their operating room and joined the Navy in conducting surgical procedures at Hospital Langley. While operating room time has always been a hot commodity, having both the Army and Navy integrated into the Hospital Langley facility has maximized their utilization.

According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Erni Eulenstein, Surgical Operations Squadron Operating Room flight commander, “Allowing multiple services to operate at Langley has helped reduce the duplication of effort while also increasing efficiency.” If an operating room is not being used by the Air Force, it is often able to be filled by an Army or Navy surgeon to help increase utilization.

Of the surgical operations currently going on at Hospital Langley, roughly 68 percent are done by Langley providers, 28 percent are done by Fort Eustis providers, and the rest are done by Portsmouth providers.

With different services coming together, challenges would be expected. However, besides a few scheduling issues, things have run smoothly. “Everyone seems to be integrating and working well together,” Eulenstein said.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dinchen Jardine, Navy Medical Center Portsmouth Department of Otolaryngology, served as the lead surgeon during the FESS procedure and appreciates the opportunity to utilize Hospital Langley’s facilities while working side-by-side with the Air Force and Army. “It definitely helps everyone see and understand best practices that then in turn can add to providing the best care possible for patients,” Jardine said.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, has served in all three branches, bringing a lot of experience into the OR. She enlisted in the Army before joining the Navy reserves as a surgical technician. She then joined the Air Force and went to nursing school where she now serves in an active duty component at Hospital Langley.

Giffin believes there are many benefits to working as a joint surgical team. “You are able to hear what everyone’s different experiences are and you can compare them to how you do things yourself.”

“We are definitely becoming very purple,” Giffin said, a term used to describe the blending of uniforms working together from different services. “It’s become so efficient that at this point, I don’t even think twice about it.”