Transplant helping hands – One step ahead

Chelsea Hamilton is a surgical technologist at IU Health University Hospital. When she’s in the OR, she tries to stay one step ahead of the surgeons – thinking of their needs.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

The transplant surgeons are systematic. Chelsea Hamilton has learned that sometimes it’s the patient that changes up a procedure.

Like a well-rehearsed dance, she methodically sets up the OR, counts the instruments, hands them to the tending surgeon, and then recounts the instruments at the close of the surgery. She started her clinicals at IU Health three years ago, worked in general surgery and then moved to transplant as a surgical technologist.

“Between the main attending surgeons there are a few differences, but for the most part they perform the surgeries the same. There may be something a little different about the patient’s anatomy but you get used to working with the same team,” said Hamilton. Her focus is on assisting in liver, kidney and multivisceral transplant surgeries.

The most challenging part of her role is the long hours and uncertainty of the call. She works on a six-week schedule with 10 off days. During those six weeks she can get a call at any time of the day or night.

“Kidney transplants are generally scheduled ahead so I could come in for a 7:30 a.m. surgery and then come back that night if there is an organ procurement and we schedule another surgery,” said Hamilton. Many of the surgeries can last hours.

“I really just go with the flow. If I’m in the grocery store line and I get the call, I go. I usually tell my friends, ‘I’ll make plans but I may need to cancel at the last minute,’” said Hamilton. When she’s not working, she’s hanging out with her dogs, going to dinner with friends, or enjoying a fire in her backyard pit.

What does she like best about her role in transplant?

“I love it because we know we are giving patients the gift of life.”