Brian Kriever: Supporting surgical patients at their most vulnerable
As a first-year student in the Radford University Carilion (RUC) surgical technology program, Brian Kriever is dedicated to easing the fear and stress patients go through leading up to and during surgical procedures. His compassion comes from his personal experience.
“I had heart surgery and a tumor removal in my 20s, so I understand what patients are going through to some degree,” Kriever recalled. “I think that is part of the reason I am excited to become part of a surgical team where I can support patients when they feel most vulnerable.”
At the time of his surgery, Kriever was working as a critical care technician in Syracuse, New York. He said the surgery affected him in many ways, but most significantly by inspiring him to be more receptive to how he interacted with people in the healthcare setting.
“Not all issues are visible,” Kriever said, “and you don’t know what people may be going through. I want to help people in what may be a very difficult time in their lives.”
A Homer, New York, native, Kriever found himself in Roanoke after moving south with his significant other so she could complete her nursing degree. Unfortunately, his EMS certifications didn’t transfer to Virginia, so he needed to find another path.
“I decided I wanted to continue my education in the healthcare field,” Kriever said, “but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue working in emergency medical services. I wanted to see how I could continue to learn about the continuum of care with a new skill set.”
That’s when Kriever discovered RUC and the surgical technology program. He said that being able to continue helping people in a new role was an exciting opportunity, and seeing surgery from the provider side rather than the patient side was an interesting shift.
“I was excited to become part of a team of dedicated professionals who are trying to make positive differences in people’s lives,” Kriever said. “Plus, surgical care is an ever-evolving landscape that is so fast-paced. I was interested in all of the great opportunities that being part of RUC’s program would bring.”
The surgical technology program at RUC is a two-year, five-semester program designed to prepare students to become an integral part of the healthcare team. The program focuses on providing surgical care to patients in a variety of settings and provides a balanced approach of theoretical and practical application in the classroom, laboratory and clinical settings. The clinical environment allows the student to apply theory and practice in state-of-the-art surgical settings, all with hands-on learning from some of the top faculty in the nation.
Surgical technologists are responsible for the instruments and equipment a surgeon needs to perform a successful operation. They are at the surgeon’s side throughout the entire procedure, anticipating the next move and executing the instrument hand-off flawlessly. It’s a fast-paced, detailed and essential clinical position.
As part of Carilion Clinic, the RUC program gives the student hands-on experience from day one in a multitude of healthcare facilities throughout southwest Virginia. Students learn from faculty who are nationally certified in their field. The student will be expected to perform at a high-level, scrubbing in on an abundance of surgical procedures which often exceed the requirements for graduation. They’ll learn to think like a surgeon and anticipate his or her next move.
Kriever began his journey to a career as a surgical technologist at an unusual time. His first semester was after the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which made hands-on, in-the-lab learning challenging. Kriever said it has been a very interesting experience despite how unusual it has been for him and his fellow students.
“I find that school in the traditional sense is much more effective for me,” Kriever said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose RUC. The surgical technology program provides a very immersive approach to learning, even during the pandemic. I’ve enjoyed the times we are in the labs with hands-on learning activities.”
Yet Kriever said that he can also see how the surgical technology program and healthcare education in general can transform itself to meets the needs of tomorrow’s patients.
“During my time at RUC, I’ve seen how new methods are being implemented in education to advance public health, distance education and personal responsibilities,” Kriever said. “It’s been an inspiration to see how we are adapting to help students, which will help patients for years to come.”
Kriever is a bit older than his fellow students, but he doesn’t regret any of the choices he made that led him to Roanoke and RUC.
“I think that everyone finds their purpose in time, and now that I have been given an opportunity to become a surgical technologist, I am very excited to see where this path may lead,” Kriever said.
Kriever expects to finish his associate’s degree at RUC in May 2022. His goal upon graduating is to work in southwest Virginia until he can get into a surgical first assistant program, which will allow him to advance his career in surgery.
“After that, I'm sure I'll find another goal to set for myself,” Kriever said. “Right now, I’m just looking forward to graduation with all my classmates, knowing that we will be equipped with the skills we need to succeed and make a difference in lots of people’s lives.”