B.S. Nursing, Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI
Hello, I am a Procedure Solutions Specialist in the Neuromodulation Division of Medtronic, Inc., a medical device manufacturer headquartered in Minneapolis, MN. Think of me as a Technical Consultant, meaning I help everyone from surgeons and nurses to MRI and CT personnel. I specialize in a type of brain surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation which helps people afflicted with Parkinson's disease, Essential Tremor and Dystonia. As you can see by the DBS section here on Edheads, this procedure is very technologically advanced. The use of MRI and CT imaging, computerized software to plan the surgery, an infrared camera system, a recording system to listen to the brain, and the actual hands-on instruments that the doctor uses to help implant the lead can make this procedure seem very complicated. It is my job to help educate physicians and co-workers how best to use these devices for the safest and most accurate outcomes for the patients they are treating.
A typical case for me would first involve traveling to the destination the day before surgery. On the day of surgery I get up quite early, around 5:30 a.m. I like to get into the OR to make sure all equipment is in the room and everything is in place. I usually meet up with the surgeon to look over the surgical plan on the computer system. This is the time where we check out the MRI and CT scans as well as designate the targeted area within the brain. The surgery generally lasts from 2-8 hours depending on many factors. Once the surgery is complete all equipment is carefully put away or packed up. Many times at this point it can turn into a mad dash for the airport to catch a plane to either the next town for another surgery or to go home. Depending on how far the hospital is from my home I can either drive or fly. A typical week averages traveling to 3 different cities to complete either a surgical case or educational training.
I have a 4 year Bachelor Degree in nursing from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I was awarded an internship position after college as a registered nurse in a large Intensive Care Unit in Milwaukee, WI. This was an excellent introduction to health care and all the possibilities it held for my career. I eventually landed back in La Crosse, WI, and worked for many years in the Operating Room and eventually became Neuro Coordinator for the Neurosurgical team at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital. This was where I was first introduced to DBS and some of the great people at Medtronic.
Looking back I would have to credit my mom for directing me towards the health care industry as she is a registered nurse. She is a bit surprised and impressed with where my career has led, but looking back she always said that the opportunities were endless. It looks like she was right, as usual!
I would say the best part of my job is seeing patients improve from the therapy right in front of my eyes, in the operating room while they're awake during the procedure. I have seen surgeons who have done this work for many years and still they become enthusiastic and excited to see the results. To be a part of something so special that blends the art of technology and human need is a blessing.
The worst part of the job is being away from home while I travel. I fly quite a bit and as one can imagine it gets pretty hectic trying to coordinate where I need to be and when. Many times I will talk to my wife on my cell phone and she will ask, "Now where are you again?" We have a calendar in the kitchen where I am supposed to write where I am on each day I travel. If I don't update it, I get into trouble. It is hard to explain sometimes what it is like to travel for your job. It is a mix of adventure, chaos, boredom and frustration. Just last week I missed my connecting flight in Detroit on a Friday afternoon. I ran to the gate only to watch my plane taxiing out to the runway as I stood, sweating in disbelief. It meant getting home at midnight instead of in time to put my kids to bed.
Although there are negatives with any job, I still feel absolutely optimistic about my career and where it has brought me. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to work with amazing Neurosurgeons and Neurologists along with the nurses, surgical technicians and everyone involved in the DBS programs. Again, it is the positive impact on the patients that provide the catalyst for all of us to do what we do.