Thursday, December 18, 2014

She’s better than ‘the real McCoy’

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/23/2013

It’s a human. No, it’s a cadaver.

It’s Sally Syndaver.

It’s a human. No, it’s a cadaver.

It’s Sally Syndaver.

She’s the newest member of the surgical technician program at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. Sally Syndaver is a synthetic, simulated human cadaver, Kelly Warren, director of the surgical technician program, said. The syndaver is the only one in the state of Kansas and the closest one is in Michigan, Warren, also a registered nurse and certified surgical technician, said.

“The surgical technician program exists because of a Title III federal grant,” Warren said. “They set aside certain monies through the grant to be used for instructional items.”

Initially the program was supposed to get a couple of mannequins, she said, but after seeing Sally at a conference, Warren said she knew the syndaver would be far more beneficial.

“They had set aside money for two mannequins and they were more nursing mannequins, not really anything we could use in the operating room,” Warren said. “We saw the syndaver at the conference and we were like ‘Wow, let’s take the money we were going to use for the two mannequins that we would barely be able to use and let’s get something the students can really use.’”

The syndaver is composed of synthetic materials and fibers, and is made to look and feel like a real human — with organs, tissue and even blood, Warren said. The main benefit of the syndaver is for instructors and surgeons to be able to perform different operations on it while allowing surgical technician students to scrub in for the surgery and get hands-on training, she said.

“We have mock surgeries where students drape her and the [surgeon or instructor] goes through the steps with the [students] or we watch videos,” Warren said. “But [students] certainly don’t have a surgeon to work with until they get to their [operating room] rotation, so that’s certainly going to be able to happen sooner and that exposure is huge.”

Being able to stand next to an instructor or surgeon and witness a surgery gives the students experience by letting them learn the steps of different surgeries, she said.

“[Students] can be up there and pass instruments and help the surgeon and anticipate his needs,” Warren said. “That’s no different than how it would be in a real operating room for a real case.”

With the ability to scrub in on a surgery for the syndaver, students can build their confidence in the operating room, Dr. Rod McCalla, medical director of the surgical technician program and chief of surgery at Ransom Memorial Hospital, said.

“When you walk in on a surgery the first time and it’s with a live patient, literally life is on the line and you’re with a doctor and surgeon — it is extremely disarming,” McCalla said. “If [students] can have had the opportunity to [assist in a surgery], sit there with me and do a surgery or with Kelly and have that whole ‘OK, this is what it’s like,’ the next time they walk in and it’s real, there’s a little bit of anxiety, but it’s not like nearly as much as if you’re doing it for the first time.”


Neosho County Community College introduced Sally to the community Thursday — performing “her” first surgery. During the surgery, McCalla, Warren, and two graduates of the surgical technician program removed a toothpick from the syndaver’s small intestines.

“If 100 percent feels like a human, I would say she felt probably 85 percent,” Warren said.

“With the exception of missing mesentery [membranous tissue or one of the membranes that enclose the organs (as the intestines) making up the guts and connect them to the wall of the abdominal cavity], the steps were exactly the same,” McCalla said. “The feeling when I’d stitch the intestines was very similar to a human. As far as how the intestines feel [compared to real intestines], I’d put it [feeling] 90 to 95 percent like human.”



Some might ask ‘Why not use actual cadavers?’ for the program, Warren said, but when using a cadaver for hands-on, instructional experience, the options are very limited.

“Even though this is a new campus, we weren’t set up to have a cadaver,” Warren said. “We didn’t have the space and there’s so many restrictions about having [a cadaver] that we had kind of thought that it just wasn’t going to happen.”

And performing actual surgeries on cadavers has even more restrictions, McCalla said. For teaching purposes in the surgical technician program, real cadavers aren’t as beneficial, he said.

“We probably wouldn’t have done [the surgery we performed Thursday] with a cadaver,” McCalla said. “Cadavers still have body fluids in them and it’s a whole different set of circumstances so you’re not going to go in and time after time do surgeries on the cadaver. It’s specifically for anatomy.”

With the syndaver, Warren said, the program has a service agreement with the manufacturer where they get a new syndaver every three months for the first year so more surgeries can be performed.

“It’s a much better solution for recurrent use,” McCalla said. “[Students] can go in there and do something to [the syndaver] every day.

Cadavers are great for learning the anatomy and physiology of the human body, McCalla said, but for surgical technician training, the syndaver is better.

“If you want to learn where things are sitting, how they’re designed, where they come from, cadavers are great for that because that’s the real McCoy,” McCalla said. “But if you’re trying to focus on the steps of surgery — what we’re going to do, how to do the steps — the [syndaver] is what you’re wanting to use, not a real cadaver. The syndaver is a much better teaching mechanism.”

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