In this conversation Ryan and I discuss why he wanted to work in the healthcare field. How working in operating rooms and meeting the people that worked along side him led him to be interested in becoming a perfusionist, and how winning the Burkheart-Brown perfusion scholarship will help him reach that goal. Enjoy the conversation.


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 Specialty Care. I’m Todd Schlosser and today my guest is Ryan Spinka, a perfusion assistant at Specialty Care. In this conversation Ryan and I discuss why he wanted to work in the healthcare field, how working in operating rooms and meeting the people that worked alongside in led him to be interested in becoming a perfusionist, and how winning the Brukardt- Brown perfusion scholarship will help him reach that goal. Enjoy the conversation.

Todd Schlosser: Thank you for listening to Scrubbing In. I’m Todd Schlosser and joining me today is Ryan Spinka. Ryan is currently an employee of Specialty Care, but will be looking to go back to perfusion school here shortly. I’d like to start off with this question Ryan. That is sort of what drove you to a career in healthcare. If you could summarize what it was that got you interested in joining the healthcare field.

Ryan Spinka:  Well Todd you know I graduated from college, from a small private college in Philadelphia. I knew I wanted to work somehow in the medical field. I really wasn’t sure how, and so I graduated with a science degree. My parents strongly recommended, they were like why don’t you just get an entry level job at a hospital, feel it out, look around, keep your eyes open, and really just see what’s out there. Nursing is a very prominent area to go into.

Todd Schlosser:  Absolutely.

Ryan Spinka:  But there’s just so many other niches that are available and obviously open for a possibility. I ended up working in the operating room for a good number of years, actually at Redding Hospital, now known as Tower Health. I was there for a couple years. You really get to know the ins and the outs of the hospital, and really just how the whole environment and ecosystem of a hospital works.

Todd Schlosser: Sure.

Ryan Spinka:  I ended up befriending a number of perfusionists while I was there. Yeah they kind of just really started chatting with me and really opening my eyes up to the world of perfusion, and really really were incredibly supportive of me applying. I just really took that up on it. Fast forward into the future, they eventually actually had an opening at the hospital and I actually applied for it. Currently very happily I’m with Specialty Care currently as a perfusion assistant.

Todd Schlosser:  What does that entail?

Ryan Spinka:  It depends upon really the hospital that I’m at. I actually travel to a number of different hospitals in the area. What we actually do on a day to day basis, one of them is called BMA, or bone marrow aspirate. One thing we’ll do is actually the surgeon will take a sample of the patient’s bone marrow from a number of different areas on the body depending upon the surgeon’s preference. They can then introduce it into a matrix. Then it can be reintroduced into the body. It actually accelerates healing. They particularly use it in spinal fusions. What will actually happen is they mix it in with this matrix, place it in between two vertebrae, and it will aid in speeding the process of joining those two vertebra.

Ryan Spinka: Another service we do is PRP, called platelet rich plasma. They will actually take a sample of the patient’s blood. It will be centrifuged down and components of that sample will then be given back to the patient via the surgeon. They can make all kinds of products from it. They can make a spray. They can make almost a glue. They can thicken it almost like a syrup of sorts. It’s really just supposed to aid in the healing process for the patient.

Ryan Spinka: We also provide another service called cell saver, which is very helpful in surgery. If the patient experiences large amounts of blood loss, it can be suctioned off the surgical field, cleaned in a machine, and then obviously given back. Similar to how you would get a bag of blood from a lab or conventional, what conventionally people think of.

Todd Schlosser: Right. I’ve heard that that is not only much better for the patient, that’s also much cheaper for the hospital because-

Ryan Spinka:  Much much cheaper.

Todd Schlosser: Units of blood are much more expensive than being able to reuse the patient’s own blood, and it’s better for the patient because it’s sort of like a transplant whenever you use a bag of blood that’s not from the patient. It just doesn’t have to do that because it’s the patient’s own blood.

Ryan Spinka: Yeah. No, you’re completely exactly right. It’s often not exactly thought of when a patient is given a unit of blood from another individual.

Todd Schlosser: Like a donor, yeah.

Ryan Spinka:  It’s not thought of in the same way as you would receive a kidney or a liver from someone, but in fact it’s a very similar thing and the body experiences the same thing when it gets something foreign like that.

Todd Schlosser: Awesome. Well thanks for letting me go down that tangent of what a perfusion assistant actually does. Were you doing different jobs around the hospital and then moved into that position?

Ryan Spinka: Yes, I was actually what is called a surgical care assistant when I was at the Redding Hospital. That kind of encompassed a great number of things. We would help prep patients. We would move patients around. We have an in-depth knowledge of different surgical instrumentation and equipment. You really just got kind of a taste of absolutely everything that there was. I actually hadn’t, sadly enough, gotten that much exposure to open heart up until the last year or two. That is its own world in and of its own.

Todd Schlosser: Oh I’m sure, yeah.

Ryan Spinka: Yeah, it’s a very intensive surgery and stressful, so they tend to be a very tight knit family. But it’s another world in the operating room.

Todd Schlosser: I’d imagine it it. It sounds like you started out your post-college life just knowing you wanted to work in healthcare. Then you sort of got what I might call, and forgive me if that sounds at all derogatory because I don’t mean it that way, but like an entry level job at a hospital to kind of see where you wanted to end up, whether it was being a nurse, or maybe going to med school and becoming a doctor, or being a perfusionist, or a neuro physiologist, that kind of stuff. What was it that drew you to perfusion specifically?

Ryan Spinka:  It’s always one of those situations, I’d say often times it’s one of those situations where it’s compounding factors. In this case it was, first of all I would say a portion of it was befriending perfusionists and them being such warm and welcoming individuals, especially in a hospital setting, everyone’s very busy and very focused. That was a very uncommon thing of sorts. I would say also I’ve always grown up with people that were very hands on with things and very mechanical. My parents, excuse me, my father is very hands on, works on cars and such. I kind of grew up in that era if you will. It was kind of a combination of factors. You’re helping people, you’re still providing a high level of care. It was something that I could easily follow up on post college, post-bachelors. I could also be very still hands on. There’s still a lot of machining if you will to it. It’s not so much bandages and gauze. It’s a little bit more of a different mindset that it’s a bit more mechanical, almost engineering kind of mindset. I think that was a strong component in the appeal to it. I think all of those factors together just really made a massive appeal.

Ryan Spinka: I had actually, I mean just to kind of add on to that, I had a great deal of experience on the more surgical technician side of things. I had actually done a couple medical relief trips to, I actually went to Nigeria twice. That was quite an experience, life changing and mentally changing kind of experience.

Todd Schlosser: I’m sure. What were you doing there?

Ryan Spinka:  I assisted a number of the surgeons who I had actually become friends with. We actually had done some prospective research together. We all knew each other well. They had asked would you be interested. I said yeah. I definitely think it’s always wonderful to explore. I had traveled a decent amount independently previously, so that really wasn’t a concern whatsoever. All of those together, it was just like this seems like a good fit. I think this could be something really interesting. Obviously you’re helping people, so it’s a win win.

Todd Schlosser: It is.

Ryan Spinka:  Yeah, I had really, I had kind of experienced the whole really immediate bedside bit of things. I had done research with a number of other physicians in other subspecialties. I had had to do rounds with them and things of that sort. I had kind of gotten the flavor of that. I wasn’t quite sure if, I would have to say I wasn’t quite sure if something like that was exactly what I was ready to do. I just found a huge appeal in more of the perfusion side of things. You’re still in and participating in the operation, but at the same time you’re kind of doing your own thing, which it actually has a strange appeal to I think some people.

Todd Schlosser: Can I ask how you found out about the perfusion scholarship that Specialty Care provides?

Ryan Spinka: Yeah. No, I actually had found out from two perfusionists, one of which who I had met immediately through Tower Health and another of which I actually worked with in Lancaster. Both of which, Joe Zimmack and Robert Brown actually are their names, they were both big influences in me choosing to go to perfusion school. Both really really supported my whole, pushing me to really apply for the scholarship. They were kind enough to both write me letters of recommendation. I applied and interviewed, and it was successful.

Todd Schlosser: Excellent.

Ryan Spinka:  I can’t be thankful enough.

Todd Schlosser:  I know that that perfusion scholarship that Specialty Care provides is not easy to get. It’s more than just an application and waiting to hear back. It’s an application, it’s an interview, I think there’s an essay.

Ryan Spinka:  There is. There is an essay.

Todd Schlosser: Yeah, it’s much more difficult than say applying for your first college experience. It’s much deeper than that.

Ryan Spinka:  Correct.

Todd Schlosser:  Now have you taken the step, now that you have the scholarship, start looking at perfusion schools?

Ryan Spinka:  Yes. No, I have actually submitted applications to a number of different programs kind of scattered all across the U.S. Sadly there aren’t too many in one particular state, so no matter where you apply it’s kind of all into the wind and just again scattered all across the U.S.

Todd Schlosser:  Yes. You are very lucky to have one in your city if you do.

Ryan Spinka:  Correct.

Todd Schlosser: Most people have to travel and then live there for a number of years. Well most programs are between 18 and 21, 22 months.

Ryan Spinka:  There are a few that are two years actually just as well.

Todd Schlosser:  Yeah. How far along are you in the process of applying to perfusion school?

Ryan Spinka:   It’s usually a multi-step process similar to this application for the scholarship. You apply, you hope to hear back soon. You kind of check to make sure repeatedly that they have received all your documents. Following that there’s usually an interview, potentially two. If there’s a secondary sometimes it’s by phone, or if it’s a school that’s very far away sometimes they’ll even do a lot of it by phone. I think they try to be flexible with some people. I’m not quite sure to that extent of it. Obviously in my opinion showing up to the school and getting an interview shows you’re serious.

Todd Schlosser:  Yeah absolutely.

Ryan Spinka: You obviously want to attend. But yeah I sincerely hope that I receive an interview from somewhere. Then I hope to speak further with them.

Todd Schlosser:  I’m sure that having the perfusion scholarship from Specialty Care already locked down should open some of those doors a little bit easier just because it’s a known entity that has given you a scholarship. Not only are funds guaranteed, but also it sort of speaks to your value as a candidate for school.

Ryan Spinka:  Yeah. I’ve been at Specialty Care for, we’re approaching a year now. They’ve certainly, it’s been busy and I’ve learned an awful lot. I should, I wanted to make a mention of this. This was kind of tucked in the back of my head that I should say while I’ve been with this company the one thing that, aside from all of the different machines and different therapies that I have learned while I was there, the one thing that I have learned that I think comboed with the scholarship could be a huge factor in my opinion is just the simple ability to be able to jump from one hospital to another within a given day, or a given week. Because coming out, and I know some perfusionists, especially young perfusionists, that is a huge huge thing that many people that are graduating feel incredibly uncomfortable with. I think that attribute right there, being able to transition to another hospital in many ways seamlessly and be in a foreign environment, I think there really is something that says about a person, that they’re flexible, they’re willing to be respectful of someone else’s hospital. You’re willing to put your best foot forward and work hard.

Todd Schlosser:  It sounds like you started out in healthcare on the front lines and you sort of decided where you wanted to go, and each step up you’ve taken has been more and more specialized. This next step up to a perfusionist will be a very specialized role for you. Is this something that you’re going to want to stick with long term, or do you think you’ll use this to open up other career opportunities within the field of healthcare, probably specifically in the perfusion realm?

Ryan Spinka:  That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve actually ever been asked that before. I don’t even know if this is possible. I’ve spoken with a couple people and a couple people have different things to say about this, but I do actually do not see this as a stepping stone. I really do want to make a career out of this for the long term. It does seem as a job that I could do until my older years. It’s not something that’s very very incredibly laborious. It is stressful mentally, so that can be quite a tiring experience. But me particularly going forward, especially after you kind of find your niche, you get comfortable in a hospital, or maybe you decide to change hospitals at some point, I would like to include a high amount or a great amount of research. I have already done some, I should say, in the past and the not too distant past at the different hospitals that I’ve been at, and so I really would like to continue that. Whether it’s prospective or retrospective research, I’m not too concerned with that end. I’m even open to do research on my own time. I know perfusionists are in very short numbers anymore and they’re in high demand.

Todd Schlosser:  Yeah the perfusion shortage, it’s a real thing.

Ryan Spinka:  Exactly. It could certainly end up being one of these situations where the numbers are so short anymore, you certainly need to be present for every single case. There isn’t a whole lot of time to do research. I would be certainly happy to do it on my own time, but I certainly would like to include that. I think me getting into this field could certainly be a stepping stone in that direction of sorts. It would allow me to access more data and have a greater understanding of certain bits of the surgery that I may not necessarily currently understand. Maybe in that fashion it’s a sort of a stepping stone, but I definitely would for the foreseeable future be a very active perfusionist and pumping cases of sorts is what they would say. I hope that answered your question.

Todd Schlosser:  Absolutely. All right, well Ryan Spinka, thank you so much for joining us here on Scrubbing In. We appreciate it. Good luck with your perfusion schooling ahead.

Ryan Spinka:  Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

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