April 1, 2008                          Vol. 1, No. 2

From the Editor

Julie Lancaster
Although some people seem to emerge from the womb knowing their exact career target, for most of us, our career forms behind us, like the wake of a boat. In this issue, you can read about one RNFA’s career path to a job she loves in reconstructive plastic surgery.

We also have some exciting faculty news – and you can access our new, updated RNFA program brochure online. Read on!

Thanks for your continued readership. Let us know how we’re doing.

Julie Lancaster, Editor

Glenn Geelhoed, M.D., Joins NIFA Faculty

Dr. Glenn GeelhoedWe are proud to welcome Glenn Geelhoed, M.D., Professor of Surgery, George Washington University, to our RNFA Program Teaching Faculty. George Magazine named Geelhoed Humanitarian of the Year in 2000 for his work in leading medical students, residents, and physicians on more than 100 medical missions in Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, and South America. You may remember him as the lead surgeon in the “Medical Missions” article in last month’s e-News.

Dr. Geelhoed is not only a multi-degreed professor, surgeon, prolific writer, and all-around fascinating man, but also a self-confessed adventure junkie. His pursuits range from bird watching, fishing, and hunting to white-water sports, diving, and climbing. You can read more on his home page.

“Dr. Geelhoed has agreed to teach at select SutureStar™ Workshops amidst his extremely busy schedule of global medical missions,” says NIFA President John S. Simon, M.D., F.A.S.C. “Glenn has already headed eight missions in 2008. Even better, he has a personal goal of taking the expanded RNFA role to areas of the globe never imagined.”

As this issue goes to press, we’ve just received word that Dr. Glenn will teach the wound closure class during our Baltimore SutureStar™ Workshop the week of July 21! To sign up for this or another workshop, call 1-800-922-7747 and press one.

Discovering the Satisfactions of Reconstructive Surgery

By Mary Ann Fetterly, RN, CNOR, CPSN, RNFA

In 2006, after 25+ years in the Southeast as an OR nurse most experienced in cosmetic surgery, Mary Ann Fetterly pulled up stakes and moved to Reno, Nev., to work at a clinic with an emphasis on reconstructive surgery. She hasn’t looked back.

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IMG_3393_400 pxI became an OR nurse right out of school in 1979. Like all of us, I “paid my dues” with learning the ropes, working with difficult surgeons, and second-guessing my chosen field.

I started out in my hometown of Atlanta, Ga., at a teaching hospital for a year, then moved on to a private hospital, since I “thought” I was proficient in my skills.

But it took about three years before I actually felt in my comfort zone. I was fortunate that the hospital’s “all-RN” OR enabled me to become proficient in both scrubbing and circulating. I discovered that scrubbing was my love and, later, that plastic surgery was my passion. After working with several renowned plastic surgeons who taught me many skills, I became a traveling nurse and found that most facilities were thrilled to have an RN who was experienced in scrubbing. Sometimes I would find a niche in plastics.

I accepted my first position as a private office/surgery/assistant nurse in 1995. The next few years were challenging. Although my surgeon was accomplished, he was not the most nurturing boss.

At this point I met my future employer, Dr. Kevin O’Loughlin. It would not be for five more years before I found my dream job. Let’s just say I “kissed a few toads” before finding my “prince.”

Most of my experience to this point had been in cosmetic surgery. Dr. O’Loughlin opened my eyes to the satisfaction of participating in reconstructive surgery as well. In 2006 he decided to relocate his family to Reno, Nev., and asked me to continue working for him.
This was a difficult choice, as my family is all in South Carolina and Georgia, but with my youngest son off to college it was just “me and my dog” at home. So, I made the decision to go for it, and at the same time to pursue getting certified as an RNFA. I had been first assisting for many years, but without the official title. I enrolled in NIFA’s program and, this winter, officially added RNFA to my name. It’s a great feeling.

I work with Dr. O’Loughlin (oplasticsurgery.com) on many types of reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. The majority of his practice is reconstructive.

The satisfactions in participating in reconstructive surgery are twofold. First, technically, it is great being able to assist in the RNFA position. But the greatest satisfaction is in participating pre-, intra-, and post-op. You get to know the patients really well.

For example, we have a 48-year-old patient who was burned severely as a 5-year-old and subsequently had ankle fusions and many skin grafts. When we met him as an adult, most of his grafts had broken down and he had open wounds all over both extremities, as well as contractures in the popliteal area on one leg. Dr. O’Loughlin has now operated on him twice, with one more procedure planned for the future. He had to have extensive debridements and biopsies of the sites (old scars can become skin cancers when they present as open wounds later on).

He’s just about ready for extensive skin grafting and release of contractures. He had not had anyone to help him before Dr. O’Loughlin moved to Reno. It is an ongoing process and the patient is really appreciative, with much improvement in his outlook.

I’m thankful to Dr. O’Loughlin, the best boss in the world.