by James Coburn
Jennipher Stark enjoys being a surgical nurse, but it is the working atmosphere at Bone and Joint Hospital at St. Anthony that she likes the most, she said. Bone and Joint is where she has devoted her career for 16 years.
“We’re a small facility. We just have seven operating rooms and we have a lot of long-term employees,” she said. “I think we’ve grown together through changes as a family and I think that’s what keeps me here. If I left and tried to go somewhere else I’d lose that and would have to start being the new kid again.”
Twenty years ago Stark graduated with a nursing degree from Platt College in Oklahoma City. She was part of their first nursing class. Stark has not always worked in orthopedic care. She was a nursing assistant for four years before she advanced to becoming a registered nurse.
Her first mission was to work with Alzheimer’s patients and long-term care. And she continues to work with patients living with dementia part time on weekends when she is not applying her nursing skills at Bone and Joint on Monday through Friday.
“I’m a kind of people pleasing type of personality,” Stark said.
So sometimes she thinks about doing something where the patients are awake and not always sedated during a surgery, she said. But her affinity with patient care and her love of the nursing staff she works next to is more than enough to keep her satisfied.
At Bone and Joint, Stark renders her surgical skills to anything that has a joint. Knees, hips, elbows and other joints keep her on her toes as a nurse at the midtown hospital. The care she provides extends from everyday people to those who excel as Oklahoma athletes, she continued.
Her early days of feeling she accomplished something important as a nursing assistant has been a thread of excellence that extends to her career today. She knows that she has helped somebody on a daily basis to live a better life. It can be said that Stark is a bright spot in the life of others.
She recalls her first day on-the-job at Bone and Joint. She felt intimidated, she said, after coming from the familiar setting of long-term care to adjust to a new field of orthopedic excellence. But Stark was fit to match the upward bound learning curve.
“This was learning about surgery and how to be sterile,” she explained. “How to pass instruments to a doctor was not like the nursing I was familiar with at all. It was a whole other career almost. It is completely opposite of what I was doing as a nurse.”
“You think about floor nursing or working in long-term care and patients are awake and moving around and you are interacting, In surgery once you take them into the OR, you are there to be their advocate.”
Stark conforms to the best practices of safety and the prevention of infection while at work. The surgical nurses wear caps and the scrubs come from a special laundry process, she said. They don’t wash their scrubs at home as is the case with other types of nurses. It keeps the fuzz low on the material, she explained.
“We wear scrubs in the morning and we have a different scrub we put on right before we go into surgery when we put our gloves on,” Stark said.
The instruments for surgery are sterilized in specialized ovens that must reach a certain temperature. Instruments inside the ovens indicate the temperature so nurses may verify if the indicator has changed to a different color.
Stark will meet with the surgical patients ahead of time to ensure all of their blood work is correctly documented. By that time the patients have met with their doctor to have answered any lingering questions about surgery.
She meets with family members and always gets contact information from them so she can communicate with them about their loved one.
“During surgery we try to do that every hour,” she said. “If it’s going to be a long surgery we will call them to say we have started and then we will call every hour after that.”
She said the staff has stayed strong together. A few of the staff members have worked there for 35 years.
“At the end of the day you feel like you’ve been at a happy place with your coworkers,” she said. “We know each others kids and we know each other’s husbands and wives. We interact with each other’s lives. So I think that when you go home you feel a sense of gratification.”