by Matt Skoufalos
U.S. Navy experience helps Todd Larson become director of education, research and development for robotic surgery vendor Mimic Technologies in Seattle, Wash.
If there were ever an example of the ways in which the nursing field provides healthcare professionals with a variety of career opportunities, it’s to be found in the life of Todd Larson, RN.
Larson whose wife is a nurse as well said he always jokes with his spouse thta, “If we get tired of one thing, we can always jump into something else.”
But the secret for Larson has always been to never stop learning.
“I can’t complain about my career and the opportunities that have been afforded to me,” he said. “I owe my progress of my career to great mentors.”
The Minnesota native joined the U.S Navy after graduating hight school. He sepnt 13 years as a hospital corpsman, working as an operating techicain. His Navy experience earned im a place in an officer candidate program that allowed him to pick up nursing training.
“The military gives you lots of leladership opportunities, chance to graow where you’re planted, so to speak, “Larson said.
“it was a really great educational and learning experience for me, and made me who I am today as a practicing nurse.”
After retiring from military servic ein 2006, Larson took a job as the robotic program surgery coordinator at Wlaer Reed National Military Medical Center in Behesda, MD. a position he held for six years. Along the way, he picked up a mster’s degree in information technology, which added skills to go along with his nursing skill set.
“Find your niche; find your calling; find what really oves, you, and I think you can have a long and happy carrer,” Larson said.
Currently, he has parlayed his unique set of experiences into a job as the irector of education, research an development for robotic surgery vendor Mimic Technologies in Seattle, Wash.
“I came from a very techological place the OR where you work with technology each ande very day, and I felt that that was a nautral learning path,” he said.
Laron is a firm believer that robotic surgery is going to change medicine. As a tool that provides superhuman capabilities, he said it can enhance the skills of an already talented sureion in ways that were previously unimaginable.
“Just over the last 20-25 years, you look at the evolution of minimally invasive surgery, ” he said.
“When I first went to the OR, it was abig incision to go and get your gall bladder out. Now it’s a 20-minute procedure and the patient’s going home the same day. From a technology piece, that’s not a long period of time.”
Even in a field that’s “exploding” in urology, gynecology, and general surgery, Larson said the emergence of a hyper-technological surgical suite is something that is just beginning to truly expand. And with his dual background in information technology and medicine, he’s uniquely positioned to contribute to its devleopment as a physician trainer.
“For me, this has been like my dream job,” Larson said. “I get to train doctors, and that’s kind of a different role for most nurses, with a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that mimics the robot. It’s really a lot of fun and an awesome experience.”
Laron is also the only cliician at his company, an dworks closely with the sales team and software and hardware engineers there to advance the capabilities of its product.
“Its much more rewrding than I thought it was or would be,” he said. “I just see the application of robotics growing more and more in the OR, particularly as physicians grow more comfortable with technology. It’s only going to be a more valuable tool.”
One such aspect of that newwave surgical toolkit, Larson said, is the training simulator upon which physicians are able to learn to perform robotic surgery — it’s painless and mistake free.
“I’ve never lost a patient,” on the simulator, Larson joked.
It’s a silly claim, of course, but it relates to what Larson believes is a foundational principle of his profession: patient safety.
“The goal of any nurse or any healthcare practitioner should be to get the patient home,” he said. Larson said he believes that minimally invasive surgery can help return patients to their homes to a greater degree than was ever thought to be “Nobody wants to be in the hospital,” Larson said. “Patients are sicker now; the standards of care now have changed where we’re almost mandated to practice much more efficiently and at a much higher level.
“One of my mentors said to me, ‘You’re not admitted to the hospital to see the doctor; you’re there to get nursing care,’ ” he said. “If they didn’t have the nurse, why not just put them in a hotel and have the doctor come by every once in a while?
“That’s always stuck with me,” Larson said. “You want to deliver the highest-quality care you can so that the patient can move on with the rest of their lives.”
The hospital environment places demands on nurses that Larson said are “much greater” in an age of do-more-with-less.
“I think it’s the nature of healthcare that has driven that change,” he said. “If you’re not really sick, you’re not in the hospital, so the patients we’re taking care of in the hospital are really sicker now.”
“This push to push the patient out of the hospital versus admit them into the hospital has driven the field,” he said. “A nurse has to become much more knowledgeable; much more skilled.”
That’s why Larson believes that falling back on education as a priority is never a bad decision for any practicing nurse, whatever field in which he or she might work. As the U.S. healthcare system is restructured, he said, “more and more is falling back on the nurse.”
One benefit of that evolution, he said, is that it keeps things interesting.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get bored in this field,” Larson said. “I don’t see a person getting bored if they truly love nursing and truly care for patients.”