Scrubbing In was honored to attended the AmSECT conference in Nashville and we took this opportunity to interview some thought leaders in the perfusion space. In this episode, you’ll hear three of these amazing interviews.
Speaker 1: Bringing you conversations with leaders within the operating room and healthcare community, this is Scrubbing In.
Todd Schlosser: Hello, and welcome to this episode of Scrubbing In, a podcast powered by SpecialtyCare. I am Todd Schlosser, and today we have a very special episode for you. Scrubbing In was honored to to attend the AmSECT conference in Nashville, and we took this opportunity to interview some thought leaders in the perfusion space. In this episode, you’ll hear three of these amazing interviews.
Todd Schlosser: First up is Karen Lambert, Director of Operations for Perfusion at SpecialtyCare. She and Chris Discuss advances in perfusion technology, the benefits of working for a company that employs a large number of perfusionists, and what it’s like to move from the front lines of perfusion into a leadership position. Enjoy the conversation.
Chris: All right, so Karen, thanks for joining us today on Scrubbing In. We are live on the floor at AmSECT, the annual meeting. So what brings you to AmSECT?
Karen Lambert: Well, I’m the Director of Operations for Perfusion for SpecialtyCare in the northeast, so come to learn about new equipment, network with everyone.
Chris: Excellent. So what’s going on with technology in this space right now? We know there’s a lot of advances going on, as you can see on the floor here. So what’s some of the new tech that perfusionists in the field can start seeing rollout soon?
Karen Lambert: Well, it seems as though we have a lot of changes in cannulas, and heater-coolers, ECMO circuits. I think ECMO circuits is probably where we see the largest increase in new technology right now.
Chris: So the heater-cooler, were you a part of the whole heater-cooler, SpecialtyCare …
Karen Lambert: Yeah. I think pretty much every perfusionist was in some way a part of it, because we all had to go back and kind of double check ourselves, and make sure that we’re documenting things a little better, and cleaning solutions. But I did not own, at my accounts, those particular heater-coolers that were making everyone very nervous.
Chris: Gotcha. So what was that process like? How did that work from the top down? Were people notified about that issue? What was the response that SpecialtyCare gave?
Karen Lambert: So all the perfusion community was notified right away. We were lucky in SpecialtyCare to have people like Al Stammers and our leadership and quality group, because then we were notified and guided step-by-step through exactly what we needed to do to make sure that we were compliant going forward, and that we had the best documentation possible.
Chris: Oh, so leadership definitely helped with with those issues?
Karen Lambert: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s one of our main benefits that we have all of these folks to help us, guide us along, and double check us, really. And then that’s where people like myself come into the mix. We get the direction from the corporate office, and then we’re able to filter it down to our managers and perfusionists, and help them along the process.
Chris: So do you think that working with a group like SpecialtyCare provides support for its perfusionists that you wouldn’t get if you were just working at a hospital?
Karen Lambert: I do. I do. I think we … I always tell people when I interview them, the number one advantage is if I have a question, or a rare patient, or a rare condition that I’m concerned about, I have access to hundreds of perfusionist via email to ask that question to and say, “Can you help me? Do you have any experience in this?” I think that’s our number one value right there, is that we have one another. But things like the heater-coolers, and a couple of years ago when [inaudible] had their earthquake, and everybody had to reconfigure their packs, everyone had to figure out, “What are we going to use? We’re not getting anything from Italy.” We have Jane [inaudible 00:00:03:52]. Jane’s on the corporate Helm, and she was able to help all of our teams immediately fix the problem. She had stuff out for them the next day. Plans were made before the dust settled.
Chris: That’s really impressive.
Karen Lambert: Yup. Yup. It really is. It’s definitely a safety net, I would say, for our perfusionists.
Chris: Very cool. So you’re obviously in leadership, and you started off on the front line as a perfusionist, and then worked your way. What did that transition look like for you personally?
Karen Lambert: So for me personally, I started my career actually working for a hospital-based program, and I did staff perfusion at a very busy facility for the first couple years of my career. And I joined the company with the goal of getting closer to family, first off. But they were opening two brand new cardiac surgery programs in the area that I live in currently now, so I thought it would be an interesting challenge, and fun to open up a few new programs. So that’s when I interviewed with the company. So I came on board, opened one, took over as chief perfusionist for that one, assisted in opening the second one, and then within probably a year or two I moved up to area manager, and then little by little kind of just picked up more areas and more teams that I work with, and then obviously the succession into director. So …
Chris: Wonderful. So how does being a chief perfusionist, how does that play into your personal life? Is there a good work life balance being in a director position? What does it look like from a personal standpoint?
Karen Lambert: So from a personal standpoint, a chief perfusionist and director, I guess, would be a little bit different, because I personally am not in a clinical role any longer. That was just a personal decision as of about two years ago. Many of our directors are still fully clinical as well, so it does gauge differently for different people. When you’re a chief perfusionist, it all kind of depends on the size of your program and the surrounding support that you have. So on a director role, we are pretty much available 24/7 to our teams, and our administrators, and our surgeons, but our goal is to make sure that our chief perfusionist and our staff perfusionist have a really good work life balance, that if they need help with something, or they’re going to take some time off, that they have us to depend on.
Chris: So you do a lot of engaging with your associates. There’s a lot of back and forth and a lot of good communication.
Karen Lambert: Oh, absolutely. Yes. All of the managers and chief perfusionists I can say I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t speak to every one of them. And then staff perfusion, we try to make it a point to at least sit down and have a lunch once a quarter, or go out when you sit down with the teams. When we go out for meetings, we always make sure we see everyone, spend time with everyone. There’s not a person on my team that does not have my personal cell phone number. They text, they call, even per diems and travelers. If they’re starting at one of my accounts, I make it a point to get out there and visit with them the first week.
Karen Lambert: Check in with them. Yeah.
Chris: That’s good. That’s good. So what is your favorite thing about working in perfusion?
Karen Lambert: Ooh. Well, that’s hard because initially it was the technology and actual in the OR and the surgeries. It’s just so exciting, and it’s so interesting every day. And since I don’t have that piece of it anymore, I do still have working with my teams on protocols and quality projects, and if they have a problem, helping them solve it. And then on the flip side, we do contracts and working with surgeons and administrators, and so on. So right now I would have to say the best thing about it for me is the mix, get to do a little bit of everything.
Chris: Great. Thank you so much for joining us.
Karen Lambert: Absolutely.
Chris: We appreciate-
Karen Lambert: Anytime.
Chris: … all that you do for our company, and for the employees, and for the patients as well. And just keep doing the awesome work that you’re doing. Thank you.
Karen Lambert: All right. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Todd Schlosser: Next up, we have Clint Albright, perfusionist SpecialtyCare. In this conversation, Clint and Chris discuss what it’s like to be on the front lines as a perfusionist, the career path that led him into perfusion, and the OR dynamic during calm and tense moments. Enjoy the conversation.
Chris: All right, so we have Clint Albright with SpecialtyCare joining us live from the floor at the … Is it 57th annual AmSECT?
Clint Albright: I don’t know. Where’s the sign?
Clint Albright: There’s been a bunch of them.
Chris: Well, we’re here live from AmSECT. So Clint, thanks for joining us. And this conference is all about perfusionists and what’s going on in the industry, what is happening with tech. And one thing that we want to focus on, on Scrubbing In, is what is it like on the front lines of being a perfusionist? What is it like being there in the room during a case?
Clint Albright: Well, I’ve been doing perfusion for over 20 years, so I guess as a veteran guy or an old old guy, it becomes routine, just like anything else. I know new grads, they get wide eyed and sweaty palms and nervous every morning, and as you go throughout your career, you’ll learn that routine is good, familiarity is good, and comfortable with your surgical team is good. So the longer you do it, I think, the more comfortable you get. And there’s always gonna be stressful days, but for the most part perfusion’s such a fantastic profession.
Clint Albright: And I think the longer you do it, you kind of take for granted just how amazing the stuff that we do is. And when you get to work with a student or somebody comes in and observes a case, and they’re like, “Oh, that is …” you get the wow factor. “That is so cool.” We take it for granted when you do it for so long, but it’s an amazing experience, or it’s amazing technology and surgery to save someone’s life, and to be able to have their life in your hands and do that on a daily basis. It’s really, we’re blessed to do it.
Chris: Awesome. So what brought you into the perfusion field? Was there a particular story about what brought you into this profession?
Clint Albright: Well, when I was an undergrad in college, I was attending East Tennessee State University, and I wanted to do something in the medical field, didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I went and got a job as a transporter pushing stretchers, and just seeing everything throughout the hospital. I got a chance to observe a heart surgery, and thought I wanted to go into respiratory therapy. So I went into respiratory therapy, and as that progressed, I started working, also continued my education, got my BS in health education, and then I looked into perfusion and really got interested in it. And so going from respiratory therapist, it just progressed, and I knew perfusion was what I wanted to go into. So I just finished my bachelor’s degree, got into perfusion school, and 23 years later.
Chris: So you’ve been doing this for 23 years.
Clint Albright: I’ve been a perfusionist for 23 years.
Chris: That’s impressive.
Clint Albright: Yeah. I’m still walking. I can still stand upright. Yeah.
Chris: So what is your relationship like with your operating room team?
Clint Albright: Our operating room team is very unique [inaudible 00:11:32]. We get along. It’s a teamwork approach, and everybody’s been there together for quite a while. So when things are going well, we’re loose, we’re laughing, we’re talking, but we’re focused on the task at hand. So I think being relaxed helps everybody get through their day better. We play music. And when it gets intense, everything gets quiet, and the music’s turned down, and we focus, but for the most part, it’s relaxed. And I think that makes your day go better. When people are laughing, and we’re picking at each other, and enjoying the day, it makes it much better. So I think when your team’s comfortable with one another and you know one another, that’s a big plus.
Chris: That’s one thing that I’ve noticed a lot talking to perfusions here at the conference, but I don’t hear a lot in casual conversation. In one-on-ones you hear it your job is fun.
Clint Albright: It can be. It can be fun. Like I said, routine days where it’s just boring, ho-hum, is a great day, because people aren’t throwing stuff, and patients hopefully aren’t critical there. We’re repairing their heart, whether it’s a valve, or giving bypass graphs, things of that nature. But a routine, boring day is a good day in heart surgery, because that means everything went well, hopefully.
Chris: What do you think about the transition from your bachelor’s into perfusion school? How was that transition?
Clint Albright: Well, going from my bachelor’s, it’s all classwork, and it’s tests, and studying, and projects, and papers, and things of that nature. But when you go into perfusion it’s that, plus you’re in the hospital for many, many hours a day. So you do the didactic section as far as research, and studying, and tests, and things of that nature. And then you turn around and spend, eight, 10 hours, 12 hours a day when you’re in your clinical rotations from early in the morning before daylight, until late in the evenings, working up patients, doing surgery, sitting in on cases, [inaudible] cases. So it’s much more intense than just go to class, go home, go out with your buddies, go home, study, things of that nature. So it’s all of that. It’s very intensified from what I remember. It’s been a long time.
Chris: What was perfusion school? You went to …
Clint Albright: I trained in Oregon.
Chris: Okay. Okay.
Clint Albright: I Trained in Oregon. It was a hospital-based program. A lot of schools have kind of closed, but I know, there’s Texas Heart, and Cleveland Clinic, and Ohio State, and Vanderbilt’s here in Nashville, and they’re all associated with the university. There’s several other programs that are hospital-based, so they’re supported by some university, and they’re based in a large academic center hospital. The school that I attended was in Portland, Oregon. It was with Oregan Health Sciences University in Portland Community College in a large academic-based hospital. We did a lot of cases. And we rotated around there in the Portland area. We went to a children’s hospital. We went to the VA, which was associated with Oregon Health Sciences University, and then a large Catholic hospital there in Portland, which was Saint Vincent’s.
Clint Albright: And worked with a guy named Al Star. You’ve probably never heard of him. He was a pioneer. He invented the first artificial mitral valve, and it looked like a little ping pong ball inside of a metal cage. So it was amazing to get to work with him for the time that I was there before he retired. He’s like a pioneer, like a DeBakey or a Cooley, that type of guy, so it was pretty amazing. He was a very nice fella and a good surgeon. Even in his older years, he was a good surgeon, especially in pediatrics.
Chris: That’s one thing that I’ve also noticed about working in perfusion is you hear a lot of the same names over and over. Very few professions that I’ve come across where you can actually work with the innovators and work with the rock stars of the industry. We’ve done a few episodes with Tom Coley and Al Stammers, and working with them on a daily basis, you just kinda get used to them being around, and they’re really cool guys. But when we’re here, they get treated like rock stars. It’s really interesting.
Clint Albright: Those guys, Tom Coley and Al Stammers, have been around for a long, long time, and they are rock stars. Tom Coley was with SpecialtyCare, which was Baxter or something a long time ago. When I first got out of school, when I graduated and started in the profession, he was with the company then, and he was a veteran back in those days. So yeah, he’s definitely one of those guys that are top notch perfusion knowledge, been in the industry for years and years, knows everyone. Everyone knows him.
Clint Albright: Most people don’t realize perfusion’s a pretty tight knit group. It’s not like nursing where … I don’t know how many … I know there’s a nursing shortage in the United States. But there’s a million nurses in the United States. There’s probably only 4,000 perfusionists in the United States. So that’s to give you a comparison. There’s not as many.
Chris: So even within the industry, it’s a tight knit group. It’s funny. SpecialtyCare, I think, is an interesting organization within the industry. But you’ve got your operating room as a family, then you’ve got the SpecialtyCare group as a family, and then you’ve got this industry, which is almost like a family in its own. Right?
Clint Albright: Exactly. Exactly. If you’re in the perfusion industry, it’s probably pretty much a good guarantee that you know someone who knows someone. So, “Oh, I know that guy.” “Oh, he knows somebody.” Well, if you need to find somebody who you went to school with or need to ask someone a question about something that you’re doing within your practice, you can find it if you know anybody, especially if you work for SpecialtyCare. We’re everywhere. So …
Chris: That’s cool stuff. That’s cool. So how does this profession work with your personal life? Is it fulfilling? Does it work well with your family?
Clint Albright: It does. I think every situation is different and unique. We just heard a talk on perfusion burnout and things of that nature. And I think it’s important that you’ve got to have that balance between work and home and downtime, and you need to take your time off, and you need to stay with your family, and experience vacations. You can’t be at the hospital 24/7. You won’t last very long. So you gotta have an outlet, whether it’s stuff with your kids, or exercise, or outdoors, or painting, or reading, or whatever it is you do, whatever your thing is. But I think for the most part, perfusion’s a fantastic profession. I know that you need to take your downtime, but it would be easy to get burned out if you don’t have balance. That’s for sure. The worst part of perfusion, I’m sure anybody will tell you who’s done it long enough exactly how long enough is being on call. That’s just the worst. It’s the nature of the beast, but hopefully it balances out. Hopefully you’ve got good partners that support each other and share the load.
Chris: Absolutely. Well, Clint, thanks for joining us today.
Clint Albright: Hey, thank you for having me, Chris.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely.
Clint Albright: Appreciate it.
Chris: Is there anything else you want to add?
Clint Albright: No, first podcast.
Chris: In the books. Well, Clint, thanks [crosstalk 00:19:24]. We appreciate it.
Clint Albright: Hey, thank you. Appreciate this.
Todd Schlosser: Last but not least, we have Robin Sutton, Director of Training and Education at Biomed Simulations. In this conversation, Robin and
Chris Discuss how her company’s technology is making surgery safer, and how vital communication and training are in the OR. Enjoy the conversation.
Chris: All right, thank you so much for joining me, Robin Sutton from Biomed Simulation. We appreciate you being here. We’re at the wonderful AmSECT conference, and we want to know what you do and why you do it so well.
Robin Sutton: Well, currently and later in my career, I’m working with a company that makes a simulator that simulates bypass and ECMO, left heart bypass, and a number of other, I guess, ancillary procedures. And so it’s kind of a new startup company. There’s five people in the company. I’ve been working there for about five years, and Dr. Rich Tallman is the Founder and the CEO of the company, and he started the company probably around, I think around 2009 or so. And it’s just really grown exponentially from that point. So I like it because it’s all about safety, and practicing and making mistakes, and that’s how you learn. So I’ve learned a lot by using simulation. It’s a really great tool, especially for adults of all ages I think.
Chris: So this is technology that is going to be utilized by who?
Robin Sutton: Well, basically perfusionists, because they’re going to run a heart-lung bypass and ECMO. ECMO specialists, which may be nurses, respiratory therapists, intensivists, like physicians that are running the ICU, and so they’ll practice various diagnostic things, and organizing the team to do things.
Robin Sutton: The big part, they’re called non-technical skills, would be like communication. And just like anything, when there’s more people involved, there’s more opportunity for mistakes. I can ask you to get something for me. If you don’t understand what it is, you get something else, you come back, and it’s an emergency situation, you bring back the wrong thing, it’s a big deal. You’re taking minutes out of that procedure.
Robin Sutton: And a lot of times it’s not dealt with in a positive way. People are yelling and nothing happens. You just are now just really afraid to do anything because you’re going to get yelled at for it. But then try to understand what the problem is. And I think that’s what I like about it is it takes that emotion out of the process, and has people working together. And it makes them more aware of the communication that’s important, and they can practice it. So that’s part of the team skills, so testing leadership, and be able to get the job accomplished, and finding out what the pitfalls are in your situation.
Chris: All right. So it’s not just about the clinical piece. It’s also about, sounds it’s soft skills. And-
Robin Sutton: Exactly.
Chris: … engagement. That’s wonderful.
Robin Sutton: Yeah. So my experience with simulation too in what I’ve been doing is that that’s where all the mistakes are going to occur. It’s not that me making a mistake. It’s that you did something, and then I responded to it, and then somebody else did this. And so there’s all these combinations that are really … You think it can never happen, but they do. And to practice those is really very helpful, to go through it beforehand, big situations, like air emboli, and stuff like that, that you may only see once in your whole career. And after that, you kind of float through it, and you get through it, and you’re thinking, “Gee, I could have done much better at that.”
Robin Sutton: Well, in simulation you can practice it, and then you can practice it again. And so you get good at it. So it’s just like just another day, and you just go through that process that you’ve experimented with, and you made it better. It’s just like every time you do something new, you’re doing it better each time [inaudible 00:23:40]. So it’s really an awesome way to learn I think.
Chris: Definitely. So is this technology something that perfusion students may see in the classroom, or may see as they’re engaging in their education?
Robin Sutton: I think almost every perfusion program in the US has one of our simulators. I would say maybe there’s, I think maybe two don’t have it. But we used to do a lot of animal labs to get the students ready for clinicals. And those are very expensive, and I’m not too keen on it. Plus, it doesn’t give the students a lot of consistency. I can’t reproduce that. You can’t do something wrong, and then the next student do something wrong. It’s not very feasible. It’s not cost effective.
Robin Sutton: And this allows you to practice, and students to practice constantly. And then when they go into the clinical affiliates, they’re ready. They know all the basic stuff, all the basics, and they practice those. And so those become more automatic, going on, and all the processes that occur, the conversation. And the clinical instructors I’ve talked to really see a difference. If they don’t get that experience before they come in, it’s a different student that they’re working with. And they have a lot more confidence in the students, so they’ll let them do more stuff, because if you show me you know how to do something pretty well, then I’ll say, “Okay, let’s take the next step. I trust you. I know what you’re going to do. You’re not going to do something crazy.”
Robin Sutton: So it’s really worked out great. It’s just so rewarding to see people learning that way and in such a positive atmosphere. No one’s yelling at them. But it’s still stressful, just enough. So it’s awesome.
Chris: So how did you … I like to ask this question to everyone about what brought them to where they are today. Was there a specific instance that you can look back on that was the catalyst to bring you where you are today?
Robin Sutton: I would say working with people that have been mentors to me, and their priority, and most important to them is education. So just being around that atmosphere that I sought out, people that are leaders in the profession, and working with them just because they’re great people to work with and they share. It helps you learn. And so someone’s doing that for me, in a way you’re obligated to do it for others too. And I think that just led me down that path.
Robin Sutton: And Dr. Tallman was kind of a friend of mine, a colleague, and he made the simulator. And I just said, “This is the coolest thing in the world. This is so cool.” And she said, “Well, I’m building it.” And I said, “Okay. Well, great.” So I was at a program, and I called him up. I said, “We want your simulator.” And he said, “Well, okay.” But basically we had a flow probe, and a level sensor, and a bag, and we bought our own monitor, and basically he came in and set up, and basically just made the first simulator for us.
Robin Sutton: And so that’s sort of been the company is that we do a lot of things at once. We’re very innovative, I think, is the important part, and always having new ideas and open. So it’s just like it’s a great atmosphere for learning, and you can make a mistake. We all just get through it. There’s no blame. There’s no … It’s a great environment because of the people, and the situation that everybody’s here to to get better, and they all want to educate their employees. So that’s sort of, I guess, where it led me. I started out as a perfusionist, and then kind of after 35 plus years, just ready for something else, I think.
Chris: Wonderful. So if someone wants to hear more or find out more, learn more, about what you and Biomed Simulations does, where can they find that information?
Robin Sutton: We have a website. It’s biomedsimulation.com. And we have our contact information on there, so you can email me, or call me or Dr.
Tallman, and we’re happy to help.
Chris: All right. Well, Robin, thank you so much.
Robin Sutton: Oh, thank you.
Chris: We appreciate the time.
Robin Sutton: A Pleasure.
Chris: Alrighty. Well, you have a wonderful rest of the day.
Robin Sutton: Yeah, thank you.
Todd Schlosser: Thanks for listening to Scrubbing In. Please take a second to give us a rating on your podcast app and subscribe so you won’t miss out on what we have coming up. See you next time.