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Nurse anesthetists make your surgery experience the best possible

Tiffany Patrick always thinks a step ahead.

If you are a surgery patient at Rockcastle Regional Hospital, and she is your nurse anesthetist, expect a call from her the day before your procedure.

“I ask a lot of questions to get up-to-date medical information I need to insure the best outcome,” she said.

Tiffany’s habit of anticipating was evident even as she began her nursing education at EKU.

“I went to nursing school knowing I wanted to do anesthesia,” she said. “I had a plan.”

Her plan got her into the nurse anesthesia program at the University of Cincinnati. Soon afterward, in 2001, she began at Rockcastle Regional Hospital.

Nurse anesthetists work closely with physicians to provide patients with anesthesia and related care before, during, and after surgeries and procedures, with the goal of keeping the patient pain-free during the procedure.

Tiffany embraces that challenge. “I have the best possible job,” she said. “I love it.”

She was the hospital’s only full-time nurse anesthetist until earlier this year. But with surgery patient volumes growing at Rockcastle Regional, she got help. In February, Terry Puckett began full-time with the hospital.

He’d been working at Rockcastle Regional part-time for 10 years, and he still remembers his first week.

“I knew from the start that if the opportunity came up to work here full-time, I’d take it in a heartbeat,” he said. When the call came, he responded with certainty. “It’s an absolute ‘yes,’” he remembers saying.

His career had taken him many places. Soon after nurse anesthetist school, he served in a M.A.S.H. unit in Operation Desert Storm, on a team that treated almost 2,000 patients in Iraq and Kuwait in three months. And for most of his career, the Copper Creek resident had been driving long distances to work, so he welcomed the shorter commute, but he also liked the destination.

“This is the job I’ve been wanting,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier here.”

So Tiffany and Terry share call, and they each work every other week, a set-up that works well for them and provides quality care to a growing number of Rockcastle Regional surgical patients. Much of that growth began with the addition of William Bakhos, M.D., who joined the hospital as a full-time general surgeon last year.

Like Tiffany, Terry recognized early on that he had chosen the right career.

“It’s just something I really wanted to do because it’s a one-on-one patient care situation, which I like,” he said. “And the field of anesthesia is fascinating to me, and always has been.

“With each patient,” he said, “I focus on good outcomes and good patient experience.”

Tiffany likes that as she’s treated patients over the years, she’s also gotten to know Rockcastle County.

“I feel like part of the community, she said. “A lot of people keep coming back, which tell me they have confidence in us.”

Acute care/surgery coordinator Beverly Wooten pointed out the critical role the anesthetists play in the surgery suite.

“Even though it’s a team effort in surgery, the anesthetists play an extremely vital part,” Wooten said. “They are responsible for maintaining the patient’s airway, monitoring the oxygen saturation, level of consciousness, cardiac and renal function throughout the surgery. The safety of the patient is our top priority, and so much of that safety lies in the hands of our anesthetists.”

For more information about the surgery services at Rockcastle Regional, call 606-256-2195.

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