The Rigors of Service: How the Military Prepares You for the OR
Whitman Partners is proud to have people on our staff that have served their country in the U.S. Armed Forces. In recognition of Veteran’s Day, which happened earlier this month, we want to highlight our newest team member, Wayne McFatter, who recently joined our consulting department. With over 30 years of experience in perioperative, Wayne had his first exposure to the operating room as a corpsman in the Navy. When he retired, he was the executive director of ambulatory and acute perioperative services at Cone Health in North Carolina.
On how working in military surgical services prepared him for civilian surgical services, Wayne says, “Whether you want to be or not, you’re going to get prepared. Whether you try to resist or not, they will prepare you. Then you realize, once you get out, wow. That was worth it.”
What was your experience like in military surgical services?
About six months after graduating high school, a friend and I went to a recruiter on a whim. I wanted to join the Navy. I took the aptitude test and scored very high in the medical field and as a radar technician. I enlisted and went in as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, which is what they call a combat medic in the Army, and a paramedic in Air Force.
As a corpsman, I had a much larger scope of practice. I was doing everything a floor nurse does. Then I tried the PACU and saw everything done in the operating room. The Navy has what you call “A” school and “C” school. When you complete your A training, you qualify for C School. It’s the next level where you choose a specialization. I decided to be a surgical technician. They put me on a ship where I was the only tech. We had a doctor on board, but he was often busy seeing patients, so I had the opportunity to do many minor surgeries, like suturing lacerations, bone setting, and casting. I was also cross-trained in radiology.
When I got out of the Navy, I quickly realized that I was very limited in my practice because all I could do was scrub. There were a lot of things I did in the Navy that I could not do in a civilian setting because I was not an RN. I did one year in the ICU, and I realized that the operating room was my first love. I was happiest there. But I wanted to have more interactions with the patient, be able to circulate cases, and eventually move into leadership. So, I went to nursing school.
How did your surgical experience in the military help you in nursing school?
The curriculum was easy for me (I was valedictorian for my ADN) because the military gave me that foundation. I learned a lot of the material on the ground while I was serving, so I had the basics going into nursing school.
What lessons did you learn in the military that you brought with you to perioperative leadership in a civilian healthcare setting?
The military has a strong focus on structure, time management, a chain of command, and critical thinking skills. I was placed in emergency situations more often, especially on a ship where there were a lot of industrial accidents. The most dangerous time being on a ship is when you’re coming into port because objects are closer to each other, and moving a ship is very difficult. I had to be on high alert, prioritize, and be able to think clearly and critically. A lot of that transferred well into the civilian medical side.
In the military, no matter how you feel about the person, you respect their position and rank. On the civilian side, people push the envelope more because the repercussions are different. If you’re not causing harm to the patient, you might get a lower evaluation. In the military, you lose money and rank.
What made you interested in consulting after retirement?
I considered going back into another system, doing interim, and consulting. I was interviewing at different places, including Whitman Partners. Our colleague, Brandon Lewis, looked over my resume and told me I would make a great consulting candidate with my experience in both the military and civilian hospitals. In the end, the opportunity for potential pulled me in the direction of consulting and choosing Whitman Partners.
How does Whitman Partners Consulting help operating rooms?
Our ultimate goal is to help improve facilities in quality, safety, and revenue. We have an OR assessment tool that evaluates things like survey preparedness, block utilization and management, infection prevention, and revenue cycle. We also assess the culture, leadership structure, and leadership development in the OR. Once we have identified the weakest areas, we do additional consulting to help them improve and take things to the next level.