By Matt Skoufalos
After 22 years in the operating room, Danielle Glover can remember the moment she knew she was destined for the surgical suite. At age nine, while flipping through the channels, she saw an open knee surgery on her local public television station. Glover’s grandfather was scheduled to have the same procedure, and so she sat, rapt, as it unfolded. When it was done, she said, “I’m going to work in the OR.”
As soon as she was allowed, Glover began volunteering at Underwood Memorial Hospital (now, Inspira Health) in Woodbury, New Jersey. Between the summer after her sophomore year in high school and the summer before her senior year, she put in some 2,000 hours of volunteer service there. Glover started by making beds, worked up to delivering flowers, and eventually became a full-fledged candy striper, including the traditional uniform.
During the school year, she found another way to advance her fledgling medical career. The county vocational and technical school offered presentations on trades-based careers, and when Glover saw “surgical technology” in the brochure, she’d found her opening. By senior year of high school, Glover was splitting time among her high school, county vocational school and local college courses. She spent all summer studying so that she could begin coursework at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), and in the fall, started her surgical technology coursework.
“I was the first to do everything in school,” Glover said. “Who wants to scrub? Who wants to cut suture? Who wants to staple somebody? I always volunteered.”
The UMDNJ curriculum thoroughly prepared Glover for the workforce: within six weeks, she was already working in the operating room. There, she learned how to pick cases, to select instruments for various procedures; to work in a team dynamic. One of her favorite teachers was a surgical technologist turned nurse, and the advice she offered Glover greatly helped in her clinical assignments.
The first such assignment took Glover to Cooper University Hospital in Camden City, New Jersey, a little more than a decade before she would eventually join the team there. After that, a practicum at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia (now Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience) led to her first job as a surgical technician. Three years later, Glover had completed her CST certification. Amid the continuing education and the pace of her career, she often was tempted to consider nursing school, but passed it up three times because she thought she’d miss the OR too much.
After a few years at Wills Eye, Glover decided to work closer to home – at Underwood, where she’d began her volunteer career – because she was about to get married and start a family. At the same time, Glover found a second family in the OR, where the close camaraderie she shared with her coworkers knitted them closer as they worked their way up the seniority chart.
“Every place you work is like a family,” she said. “You always started at the bottom, and then you had to work up seniority to get day shift. We mainly specialized in vascular and orthopedics, but I could take a new employee starting in one service all the way through their orientation.”
Underwood offered emergent cases, but not necessarily Level I trauma cases, and so Glover took additional hours at various surgical centers as she built her career. In a freestanding clinic environment, she learned a variety of skills, from materials management to sales to environmental services, to complement her work in the surgical suite.
“When you’re there, you have to be everybody,” Glover said; “it’s all hands on deck. If I wasn’t there ordering, someone else was. We would help wash, wrap, string instruments; help take the patient out to the car. We’d have to unpack the boxes and put them on the shelf. You don’t just walk in, and open your case, and scrub.”
Throughout her career, Glover has worked mostly in vascular and orthopedic settings. Those experiences taught her how best to accommodate the preferences of various surgeons (and how to manage their various personalities). Through it all, her enthusiasm for the job and for continual learning has never waned.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great doctors,” Glover said. “I was once told by a very prestigious orthopedic surgeon that I have quite the resume of names, but I feel like I am really part of the team. Everyone has an essential part to play.”
“You become very loyal to people, and they become really appreciative of your loyalty,” she said. “There are people for whom it’s just a paycheck, but I never thought of it as just a paycheck.”
Perhaps as importantly, Glover learned that she can be as dedicated to her career as she likes, and it won’t come at the expense of her family or private life. She’s been married twice, and is raising a teenaged son with her second husband, Dr. James Alexander. Her interests in fitness introduced Glover to TRX exercise classes, and she recently became a certified yoga teacher to boot. Glover plans to enhance that training with additional certifications in the coming months. The transitions in her career, as varied as it has been, have only made it more interesting, she said.
“It’s a lot, but I feel like it’s very rewarding,” Glover said. “There’s always new things to learn. Sometimes you get your first job and you never leave; I always wanted the next place I went to bring more experience. There were weeks I worked 70-80 hours because I loved it.”
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do all over again,” she said. “If this is what you dream about, this is what you should go for.”