When I reflect on the elements which persuaded my decision to become a nurse, I cannot ignore hereditary influence. Between my maternal grandfather’s aunt serving with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and three of my aunts graduating as diploma nurses after WWII, I would say my genes are pretty entrenched in a passion for nursing!
My first job during college was working as a weekend secretary on an orthopedic ward at a major medical center hospital in the northeast. It was then that I grew to admire the spirit of the floor nurse who wore a starched white uniform, nurse’s cap, white stockings, white shoes and a navy blue cape clasped at the neck worn during cold, snowy weather. I was in awe of how that uniform stayed a pristine white after an eight-hour shift. I loved to sit at the bedside with some of the long-term patients to listen to their stories. I was so excited to be a small part of their team!
Although I was told, “You should have been a nurse,” many times during my life, I don’t think I seriously considered going into the nursing profession until I experienced a life-changing event that happened to me as a patient at Houston Methodist Hospital.
As an adolescent, I developed a chronic hip condition that led to significant arthritic pain and immobility. The predictable treatment was total hip replacement. I was encouraged to wait as long as possible to receive the most reliable implant that would improve my quality of life; a life without chronic arthritic pain. A nurse from our church recommended a well-known, highly respected orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital. At 40 years old I underwent hip replacement surgery. I remember waking up in a private room on Dunn 7, surrounded by my family; and best of all, I was free from hip pain!
My nurses exhibited a gentle and caring passion in the art of nursing. They taught me about hip precautions and infection control. I trusted them with my life and I was deeply saddened to say goodbye on the day of discharge!
This positive experience left me with a profound urge toward following the Golden Rule, that is, to “give back.” Could I be a nurse? My hip was fixed, but I was unsure I could endure the physical demands required of a nurse. My ultimate nudge was from my husband who said, “There is nothing wrong with your brain — go back to school and become a nurse.” That gentle push was what I needed to satisfy my need to give back to those who changed my life.
I have since graduated with my master’s degree and have shared my personal story with many elective joint replacement patients, some of whom are nurses and doctors here at Houston Methodist. I hope that sharing my experience has made a difference.
When I was in third grade, my mom was a single parent and worked nights as a charge nurse at the local hospital. She would take her three girls to work with her because she felt it was safer than leaving us at home alone. She would make things convenient and comfortable for us in the break room. She would make sure we had enough snacks, blankets and things to keep us busy during her 11-7 shift.
Most nights I would not sleep. Being the youngest of the girls, I was pretty attached to my mom. I would get up just to follow her around and watch her take care of the patients. She was such a caring nurse and would go from patient to patient checking to see if they needed anything for pain or if they were comfortable.
I remember very vividly when a patient passed away on my mom’s shift and, being the only RN in charge, she had to prepare the body for the funeral home. I asked if I could help, she asked me if I was sure and I told her yes, I wanted to help.
As I assisted my mom, I watched how caring she was to this patient, and considering the family would be there to see him soon. She cleaned him and treated him with so much dignity and respect that even at that young age all I could think about is I how I wanted to be just like her — a caring nurse and loving mom.
Today, my mom is a retired nurse practitioner. I followed in her footsteps to become the caring nurse I am today. After 25 years, I still enjoy taking care of the patients. As a professor of nursing students, I have passion for paying it forward. All this from the inspiration came from my mom.
On May 14, 2010, Jacquline Adams, who goes by the stage name Iman Heartandsoul, abruptly woke up from her sleep and began to shake uncontrollably. She felt as if she was losing control of her body, and when she got up, she knew she wasn’t her normal self.
After numerous hospital visits, doctors couldn’t settle on a diagnosis and Jacquline started losing hope. That’s until she came across “Zipperheads,” a Facebook page about Chiari malformation, a condition in which the cerebellum, or the part of the brain at the back of the skull that controls balance, is too small or deformed, which puts pressure on the brain.
Members of the Facebook page shared similar symptoms to the ones Jacquline was experiencing, including headaches, pressure in the head, ringing in the ears, lack of sleep and depression. They advised her to see Dr. Rob G. Parrish, a neurosurgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital.
After reviewing a previous MRI, Dr. Parrish diagnosed Jacquline with Chiari malformation. Jacquline recalls Dr. Parrish saying he was stunned that she was still walking considering how advanced her condition was. Soon after her diagnosis, Dr. Parrish performed surgical decompression that resulted in the removal of two inches of her skull and two bones from her neck to make room for her brain. While the surgery is not a cure, in some cases it halts or stops the progression of the disease.
“I decided after my surgery that I would be a fighter, a survivor, and I was determined to bring some well-needed attention to an unknown illness,” Jacquline said. “The more attention Chiari gets, hopefully Chiarians will not have to search and suffer as long as I did just to get diagnosed and treated.”
As a singer, Jacquline knew she wanted to use her talent to financially help parents of children with Chiari. After her surgery, Jacquline recorded and released her own CD, “Determination,” where all proceeds went to helping these families in need.
She also founded a nonprofit, Iman’s Zipperhead Hearts for Chiari, and started an annual benefit concert and fundraiser, An Evening with Iman and Friends. The fundraiser was designed to raise awareness and assist Chiari patients financially, and has received a proclamation from the office of Mayor Annise Parker that declared Saturday, May 9, 2015 as “An Evening with Iman and Friends Day.”
“I have had my ups and downs, my good days, my bad days, but with the support of my husband, children, family and friends, I got better and stronger – mentally, physically, and emotionally,” Jacquline said.
Chiari malformation was earlier estimated to affect nearly 1 in every 1,000 people. With the advancement of technology, experts now believe that Chiari is more common than previously thought. To learn more about Chiari malformation, visit this resource page.
Now you’re a Registered Nurse (RN) or working toward graduation. Plans of serious celebration have been rightfully put in order for some time. You have said goodbye to a full night’s sleep, nail polish in exchange for scrubs, learned about evidenced-based practice, good bedside manner and the diligence to work up four-to-five patients since 5 a.m.
To the rest of the world this may sound crazy. Why did you put yourself through all of that? Because you want to do the one thing that has captured your spirit and tugged on your heartstrings ever since the moment you realized you wanted to become a nurse: you want to make a difference.
Nursing school has a way of pushing a sequence of buttons. In the real world of nursing the same is true, but it’s a different set of buttons. The difference is after school you emerge stronger, refined, polished and professional. You have the thinking required to take charge, augment your responses and practice nursing in the clinical way.
Many aspects of your career may change, but there is one thing that does not change: you and the kind of nurse you want to be. If you are in school, listen to your inner voice, do what strikes you best and get inspired. Why did you want to become a nurse? Remind yourself of that every day before beginning a shift.
Tips for new nurses
Positive communication. This is the single most important skill to master no matter. As a patient advocate and university/hospital representative, your communication skills need to be on point 100 percent of the time. People may not remember the exact verbiage that you used, but they will certainly remember how you made them feel.
Be honest about your capabilities. “RN” covers a multitude of jobs that involve patients from all different walks of life, settings and acuities. While I will always be the No. 1 cheerleader for every person climbing that nursing ladder of success, know where your limits are and know when to speak up.
Own your leadership skills. You are on the front lines of leadership and patient advocacy. The difference between someone only wanting to clock in and clock out and someone showing up to make an outstanding difference is noticed.
Get in there. Nursing is a lifelong journey and the destination is not graduation. Whether you are two years or 42 years into your nursing practice, the process of learning never ceases. Find what works for you, the patient and your team, and seek to understand what resources are available to you and your practice.
Organization is key. Nursing is a planning profession. Get your name on the books now. None of this is meant to panic you; only to stress the importance of organization into every element of your life.
The key to success finding out what is expected of you, knowing what tools are available, beefing up your knowledge base and organizing it in a fashion that compliments your practice and life. Watch and learn from those a few steps in front of you and do not be afraid to bring what you have to offer to the table.
Growing pains are inevitable. Bodies grow and so do minds, spirits and personal limits. If your desires are true, your intent pure and your will strong, all the things you thought you couldn’t do you, you will see in time, you have been doing all along.
When she joined our infection control team, we knew immediately that bringing her in was the right call. Staff and patients loved her. It seemed like she never left the hospital and could work 24/7. We knew she was great, but we didn’t realize what a valuable employee she was until the United States had its first confirmed Ebola case.
This employee’s name is TRU-D, or Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfection. TRU-D is a robot that produces natural ultraviolet (UV) light to target common germs found in hospitals. The UV light modifies the DNA structure of a cell so that it cannot reproduce, and a germ that cannot reproduce cannot harm patients or employees.
“There is increased evidence in scientific literature that UV light disinfection technology can sterilize entire rooms and render common hospital pathogens harmless,” explained Mario Soares, director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist Hospital.
Currently, TRU-D, often mistaken for R2D2 of Star Wars, sanitizes patient and operating rooms at Houston Methodist after they have been cleaned with the traditional cleaning processes. She rolls in to the room, and we close the doors behind her.
While the light TRU-D produces is natural, you don’t want to be in the room while she’s working; she likes to work independently. Using a handheld remote, TRU-D’s boss activates her from outside the room, and her sensors analyze the shape, size and contents of the room. She calculates the amount of time needed to sanitize the room (usually 20-25 minutes) and bathes the room in UV light before shutting off automatically when the germs are dead.
“While TRU-D is already a core member of our cleaning and disinfecting team at Houston Methodist, we are adding more TRU-D robots to our arsenal,” Mario said. “We want to use TRU-D to disinfect more rooms to increase the level of protection for our patients.”
The next time you’re at Houston Methodist, keep an eye out for TRU-D. She might be rolling to a room near you.
This is the third, and final, part of our three-part series on MITIE, the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. To recap, MITIE is one of the largest and most comprehensive surgical education and research facilities in the world. Our first blog was a photo tour of MITIE. In our last blog, we talked about how MITIE provides physicians with a comprehensive training facility to learn new surgical techniques.
To finish our time together, I sat down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, to ask him why MITIE and the work done there is so important. When Dr. Dunkin isn’t at MITIE, he is an endoscopic surgeon, which means he performs surgery through small incisions or natural body openings to make surgery safer and recovery faster.
Me: Why is MITIE so important and why are you so passionate about MITIE that you’d move your family and practice to Texas to build it?
Dr. Dunkin: Passion is the right word to describe MITIE for me. In medicine, we have a pressing need to support the ongoing training of practicing health care professionals. With how quickly things are changing and constant advancements in technology, it’s become a real crisis. You could be in practice after your training for a relatively short period of time and you’re not up to date anymore and you have nowhere to go.
I’ve developed training programs at several institutions, but nowhere did I see the opportunity to develop an educational facility of the scope and scale available at Houston Methodist. That’s what convinced me to move to Texas and become a part of this. I don’t think anyone else on the planet, and certainly in the U.S., could have done what we did with MITIE. No one else had the resources, the space, the commitment from hospital leadership, the people – it took a lot of things coming together for MITIE to be what it is. For example, I recently had the opportunity to give my mentor, a worldwide leader in surgical education, a tour of MITIE, and he was completely blown away by the facility, the scope of programs available, and the timeline in which we accomplished this. Even with our initial success, we still have a lot of things we want to do in MITIE, so we aren’t done yet.
Also, some practicing surgeons don’t understand the importance of or the value of educating other clinicians. I’ve been taught that you teach others what you know. I’ve found that in the process of educating others, you learn, too.
Me: You have a lot of ongoing projects, but what are some of the bigger projects you are working on right now?
Dr. Dunkin: The educational project I’m most excited right now is the MITIE Lapco program, which teaches laparoscopic colon surgery. Learners spend four days in MITIE doing hands-on training with experts from around the world. In most courses, that’s where the learning stops, leaving an educational hole where the surgeon goes back to his or her home institution and is alone in the operating room when trying to start doing this new procedure. I’ve always thought technology was the way to fill this gap.
We added telementoring, or the practice of using a videoconferencing system in the operating room to allow an expert surgeon to virtually mentor another surgeon, to the MITIE Lapco program. Learners have an expert with them virtually for their first 10 cases at their home hospitals. We believe that telementoring will help the learning surgeons perform better, safer surgeries and will help increase the U.S. adoption rate of laparoscopic colon surgery.
Telementoring is doable and every bit as powerful as in-person mentoring. I have hospital CEOs asking for us to offer telementoring for more courses because they’ve seen the outcomes. They know their surgeons will be able to do these advanced procedures safely and effectively and will have happier patients. I think five years from now, we’ll look back on this conversation and laugh because telementoring will be so common.
Me: What’s your favorite MITIE class or research project so far?
Dr. Dunkin: I think the clear favorite is MITIE Lapco. It wasn’t just the course we put on for the learners, but it was the thoughtfulness, time and effort we put in to designing the program from developing the curriculum and organizing telementoring opportunities after the course. And the feedback we got from learners during the course was unlike anything we’d heard before. Almost everyone in our first MITIE Lapco course had been to a previous course on laparoscopic colon surgery at another institution, and they were just blown away with the difference in their confidence level in performing this surgery at the end of our course compared to the others.
Me: What are some upcoming MITIE classes or research projects that you’re most excited about?
Dr. Dunkin: I’m most excited about the next stage of growth for MITIE because we’re right at the threshold of it.
The first stage was designing and building a physical structure. The next stage was building an infrastructure that could support volume and a variety of programs. In the seven years that we’ve been open we’ve had more than 28,000 learners here.
Now, we are at the point where I want to create more programs like MITIE Lapco that address the full spectrum of surgical education. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that no other place is doing what MITIE is doing. What’s really great is that where we want to go with MITIE fits with Houston Methodist’s goal of leading medicine rather than just practicing it. There are a lot of great courses and research projects in MITIE’s future, but it’s the whole MITIE package that I’m most excited about.
The more I see MITIE evolve, the more confident I am that we are going to change the medical world by creating better educational tools and providing them to colleagues from around the world.
If you don’t work in health care, you might be wondering why you should care about MITIE and the work we do here. Well, I’ll tell you! There are two main reasons:
MITIE is a medical education facility. MITIE provides surgeons and surgical nurses with an opportunity to learn, practice and perfect new surgical techniques.
MITIE isn’t just for health care providers. MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. Think law enforcement, emergency medical service providers, etc.
After nursing school or residency, there are few educational facilities surgeons and nurses can go to learn new techniques. Cue MITIE. New surgical techniques are being developed all the time that make surgeries safer and more successful while decreasing the amount of time needed for recovery. You want your surgeons to know these latest and greatest techniques, but to perform them safely and successfully, the doctors need to practice them.
The alternative to practicing in MITIE is practicing on you – any volunteers? I didn’t think so. One example is laparoscopic colon surgery. Laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery, uses several small incisions instead of one large incision. A laparoscope, or camera, is inserted through one incision and special laparoscopic surgical instruments are inserted through the other incisions. Laparoscopic colon surgery has been practiced in the United States since the 1990s and has been proven to be less painful with less scaring and allows patients to get back to their normal lives faster.
However, the US adoption rate of this procedure hovers around 40 percent because performing a colon surgery laparoscopically is a difficult procedure that is tedious to learn. In October 2014, MITIE hosted a laparoscopic colon surgery course for seven surgeons and their operating room staff. After spending four days training at MITIE, these surgeons returned to their hospital and were mentored by an expert surgeon during their first laparoscopic colon surgery. Several of the learning surgeons noted that the hands-on class at MITIE coupled with mentoring during their first surgeries at home helped increase their comfort level with the procedure and has benefitted their patients with safer surgeries and faster recovery times.
MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. MITIE recently collaborated with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Tactical Medicine Program to create the HCSO’s first tactical medicine school. Tactical medicine is the delivery of emergency medical care in a law enforcement special operations scenario.
“Most people don’t know that the Sheriff’s Office is staffed with deputies who are physicians and paramedics who respond to emergencies to provide care to their fellow officers and citizens until EMS can arrive,” explained Dr. Aashish Shah, a HCSO deputy and administrator over the HCSO’s Tactical Medicine Program.
During the first tactical medicine school, the HCSO Academy hosted the tactical trainings, such as gun safety, medical extraction, building clearing and distraction devices. At MITIE, the students covered a variety of tactical medical tactics, such as triage, airway management, hemorrhaging and burns.
After a week of lectures and practice, the students put it all together with a live High-Risk Operations Unit (HROU) exercise at MITIE. We simulated an active shooter in a hospital scenario to test the participants’ new understanding of tactical medicine. The learners were assigned to teams of SWAT officers. Each team entered the building and took the stairs to the 5th floor where MITIE is located, just like they would do in a real situation.
When they arrived on the 5th floor, they were greeted with a variety of scenarios, including blaring music, a sound track of dogs barking, rooms that were dimly lit or completely dark and random MITIE staff who would act like innocent people caught on the floor or the suspect the team was looking for. Their mission was to locate an injured Oscar or Mayer (you remember the SimMan patient simulators from part 1, right?), provide care to help stabilize the patient then continue to look for the suspect. At the end of the exercise, the students were credentialed by the HCSO to provide tactical medicine support.
While you may never take a class at MITIE, the work done here affects you. Next week, we’ll sit down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, for a Q&A about his work and why he’s so passionate about the MITIE.
I admit it. I’m a huge nerd. I love learning about how things work and playing with new gadgets. That’s probably why I’m obsessed with MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. Officially, MITIE (the acronym is pronounced mighty) is described as one of the largest and most comprehensive education and research facilities in the world. Unofficially, it’s a playground for nerds like me and practicing medical professionals who want to learn new surgical techniques and research new ideas.
Because I can’t fit all of my love for MITIE into one blog, this is the first of a three-part series on MITIE. We’re kicking it off with a photo tour, followed by a review of a recent MITIE class and how it affects average people like you and me, and wrapping up with a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE (one of the smartest people I know).
Here we go! Please keep arms and legs inside at all times!
MITIE spans the entire fifth floor of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Obviously, the lobby is the first stop. You feel smarter as soon as walk in, and there’s a reason why. The designers wanted MITIE learners to feel like they were entering a professional, modern environment as soon as they stepped off the elevators. The entire floor gives you the smart people vibe with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Texas Medical Center and the bright wall colors.
From the lobby, we go to the Med Presence Suite. It has three, 72-inch flat screens at the front of the room and three rows of seating for lectures. Monitors come up out of the desks if you need a closer look at what’s on the big screen. Most often the screens are used to observe a live surgery happening in an operating room at Houston Methodist Hospital or a training surgery in a simulated operating room in MITIE. The Med Presence Suite would also be a good place to watch the game. I’ll bring the chips and salsa. #GoTexans
Next stop is MITIE’s newest addition: the hybrid operating room. It contains a robotically guided rotational fluoroscopy machine and an MRI machine. Having both imaging capabilities in a single operating room provides surgeons with better visualization inside the body to help them perform more complex procedures. The majority of the surgeries practiced in this room are to treat vascular issues.
Next up, the Procedural Skills Lab, or PSL if you’re in the know. Think of the PSL as a massive room with multiple mini operating rooms inside. Each of the stations has a monitor connected to a camera at a teaching station. This allows a learner to stand across the room at another practice station and still observe what the teaching surgeon is doing. The PSL is used for surgeons to practice performing an operation, mastering a new surgical technique, and learning how to use new equipment safely on various types of anatomical and inanimate models. To simulate an actual operating room, the students will wear protective equipment, such as hairnets, masks, gowns and gloves. The PSL is one of the most important rooms in MITIE. Why? Because you want your surgeon to know the latest and greatest techniques, but you don’t want them to practice on you. At least, I don’t.
From the PSL, we walk down the hall to the private operating rooms. The first one is a CT operating room. It’s based on the same concept as the hybrid operating room, but this imaging type is ideal for orthopedic surgeries because bones show up better on CT scans.
Did you notice that several training rooms in MITIE have imaging capabilities? We have several imaging modalities available in MITIE because many Houston Methodist researchers are focused on improving visualizations inside the body to make surgeries safer and less invasive.
A few of these private operating rooms do not have imaging capabilities so that MITIE can have more flexibility in the type of work done in these rooms. For example, researchers can test a new product or surgical technique here in preparation for sending it to the FDA or other organizations for approval.
We can also set up the Da Vinci robot system in one of these private operating rooms. In this picture, the Da Vinci is set up for a physician to learn how to safely operate with it. We have three Da Vinci robot systems, and they’re super cool (if you can pretend that you’re not being operated on by a huge spider robot).
Across the hall from these operating rooms are microsurgery training rooms. Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.
Our next stop is a set of rooms that serve as a virtual hospital. Much like a flight simulator for training pilots, the virtual hospital is designed to put learners in a real environment to help them learn. The simulation rooms include typical equipment seen in a hospital or triage room. For training here, we have two SimMan patient simulators named Oscar and Mayer. A tech in a connecting room can control Oscar and Mayer to make them breathe, talk, laugh, cry, go into cardiac arrest, etc. The boys will even react when a trainee gives them medicine based on the scenario they have been programmed to run.
At the end of the hall are our partial task rooms. This long room can be divided into several rooms for smaller courses. In this picture, we have airway models set up for a course on intubation.
Last stop – the conference rooms. Not super exciting because of everything we’ve just seen, but they are used for meetings and as staging areas for courses. Most of the walls in these rooms are covered with whiteboard for drawing illustrations or other creative things during meetings. In case you didn’t know, you can also use dry-erase markers on the floor-to-ceiling windows in these rooms. The marks will wipe off with an eraser for a whiteboard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve drawn on almost every window in my house since learning this.
That’s it! Thanks for joining us on this tour of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation & Education. MITIE is a great place to learn and discover new things.
At the moment it’s just a big deal inside our own company, and in the three other Houston companies that also earned the distinction for 2015. But in coming weeks and months you’ll likely hear more about this distinguished list because ultimately, this is also a big deal for everyone.
It’s a pretty serious process to get on the FORTUNE list. The company polls employees about their opinions on a number of workplace issues like compensation, fairness, opportunities for advancement, and if they like their boss and their jobs. Once they get an idea how employees feel about working at a company, the auditors look at a company’s culture: the workplace atmosphere created by the people working there.
Houston Methodist has always worked hard to create an environment that brings out the best in our employees. We want Houston Methodist to be a place that supports our employees both on and off the job by encouraging healthy behaviors and striving to balance work and life.
As a company, we have agreed to live and work by a set of values we call I CARE – an acronym for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence. We pack our I CARE values like our lunch kits, and we share them with our patients and visitors every chance we get.
We believe that’s a key to making our hospitals and care centers great workplaces. In other words, we believe very deeply in what we do and that’s why we like working at Houston Methodist.
As I said, it’s a big deal to all of us who work here. But what does it have to do with you?
In fact, it’s all about you – our patients. When you come to one of our hospitals for medical treatment, we know you want the best care possible. And you will get that, as long we have employees who enjoy their work and are willing to give their best effort.
One person who’s seen it in action is Peggy Obert-Voitik, worked as a long-term care nurse and nursing home administrator in Illinois before she relocated to Texas last summer.
Shortly after moving here, she required medical treatment and hospitalization at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital. “I’ve been a nurse for a while … I’ve seen a lot,” she says, “so I kind of had my guard up.”
But instead she encountered friendly, always pleasant caregivers. “People were tending to me every hour … I never once had to wait for anything I needed. Everyone was always pleasant, always willing to make sure I had the answers to all my questions,” Peggy recalls.
“I was extremely, pleasantly surprised,” she adds. “It was certainly not my typical hospital experience.”
After her discharge, Peggy went home and logged on to the internet to look for an open position for a skilled, long-term care nurse at Houston Methodist San Jacinto as a result of the great care she received.
Now Peggy Obert-Voitik, RN, is MDS coordinator for the Skilled Nursing Facility at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital, a job she’s had since September of last year. She says she’s happy to be here.
Like Peggy, everyone at Houston Methodist is inspired and energized by our work at one of the “100 Best Companies To Work For.” For the past 10 years, we’ve been happy to be there.
Rodeo has returned to Houston! Last week, we shared what a typical day was like for the RodeoHouston® sports medicine team. To recap, Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston. The sports medicine team consists of medical volunteers from across the city, who take care of the rodeo athletes and their families before, during and after the competitions.
Just like any other elite athlete, rodeo competitors deal with injuries. But did you know the types of injuries vary by competition? I talked to Dr. Timothy Sitter, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the RodeoHouston sports medicine team, about the rodeo injuries he’s seen in his nearly 20 years working with RodeoHouston.
Tie-Down Roping and Steer Wrestling: The most common injuries in these rodeo athletes occur in the knee. “If you’ve ever wondered why the dirt on the stadium or arena floor is being tilled up between events, it’s to keep it soft for events like tie-down roping and steer wrestling,” Dr. Sitter said. “These cowboys are coming down off their horses fast, so they keep the dirt around one foot-thick and soft because hitting a hard surface, like packed dirt, can cause a lot of damage to the knee.”
Team Roping: As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way. Many riders have gotten their fingers caught in the rope while wrapping it around the saddle horn causing damage to or even losing a finger.
Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding: “Elbow and shoulder injuries are common in this event,” Dr. Sitter said. “The cowboys are holding on to the rope to stay on the horse, so their shoulder and elbow are under a lot of stress. These athletes deal with a lot of sprains, strains and ligament tears.” Dr. Sitter added that most of these cowboys also wear neck collars to help prevent whiplash.
Barrel Racing: The key to barrel racing is to make tight turns around the barrels. Dr. Sitter said many of the cowgirls will hit their knees on the barrels, which can cause ligament tears and even fractures.
Bull Riding: One might think that the most common injury in bull riders is caused by whiplash or getting their hand caught in the rope, but the most common injury in these athletes is to the groin and hip. “The cowboys are holding on to the bull with their knees,” Dr. Sitter said. “The groin and hip muscles are straining because the knees are clinching on to the bull. Many bull riders work on increasing the flexibility in their hips to help prevent groin and hip muscle strains.”
No matter the event or injuries, the cowboys and cowgirls at RodeoHouston have a multi-disciplinary team at the ready to take care of them and get them back in the saddle.