A da Vinci surgical robot would normally cost $2 million. A sticker price far too rich for a community college surgical technology program. However, thanks to a vendor, OTC's surgical technology students have access to the multi-million dollar piece of equipment for a week of training.
The term “robot surgery” may conjure up images of droids tending to humans in “Star Wars.” But robot-assisted surgery is not a fantasy a science fiction writer conjures up. It is a surgical technique growing in popularity among health professionals.
Previously, Ozarks Technical Community College students could only read about robot surgery in textbooks or see one during their clinical rotations. However, thanks to an OTC vendor, the college’s surgical technology students can access a da Vinci surgical robot for an entire week, Nov. 27 – Dec. 1.
“This is a fantastic training opportunity for our students,” said OTC Surgical Technology Program Director Angie Enlow. “Our students are learning to ensure the robot is sterile and install the cameras and tools a surgeon will use.”
Robotic surgery allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures, but the robot allows more dexterity than traditional laparoscopic techniques. Open surgery is just like it sounds — the surgeon opens the body cavity to perform surgery, but open surgery requires days or weeks of recovery. Laparoscopic surgery requires only a few small incisions, but the surgeon’s movement is limited to two dimensions.
In robotic surgery, the robot is positioned over the patient, the surgical tools are inserted into the patient’s body, and the surgeon sits at a console, operating the tools remotely in three dimensions with enhanced dexterity.
“In a traditional surgery, even if the surgeon’s hand shakes slightly, the tool in the patient shakes considerably,” Enlow said. “The robot does not shake at all.”
While this multi-million-dollar piece of equipment is too expensive for the college to keep permanently, the surgical technology students are making the most of their week with the device.
“Being able to touch and feel the equipment is super-helpful because we learn how to manipulate and work with the machine,” said OTC Surgical Technology Student Leann Gregory. “Looking at a picture of it in a book does not do it justice.”
“I learn from reading and doing,” said OTC Surgical Technology Student Abby Baldwin. “Reading about the robot gets it in my head, but working with it helps the knowledge adhere, and I comprehend it better.”
Enlow says the training will make her students even more sought after when they graduate in May. She hopes to make the week-long training with the da Vinci surgical robot an annual event.
Besides the da Vinci representative, some CoxHealth surgeons helped train the students on the robot.