ACC Alumni Spotlight: Kristen Sakamoto
Kristen Sakamoto doesn't have to look far for inspiration.
Nearly 10 years after graduating from American Career College-Orange County, Sakamoto still stops by campus to provide tips to surgical technology students and talk with instructors.
During a recent classroom visit, she shared more about her clinical experience at Fountain Valley Hospital and how she proved herself while there and was subsequently hired directly out of school. Two years later, she began working for Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Irvine. Now after almost eight years at Kaiser, Sakamoto precepts students in the operating room (OR) and tries to pass her inspiration onto them.
“Every day in the operating room inspires me. Every patient inspires me,” Sakamoto said. “I do my job to the best of my ability for them.”
Where do you work and how long have you been at your current position?
I started working in the main operating room at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine in November 2010. I'm still there and loving it. Before that, I worked two years at Fountain Valley Medical Center, who hired me out of my externship.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that my job significantly helps people. Even though this job is a thankless one — since most of our patients are asleep — it’s very rewarding knowing that what I am doing is making a difference in someone’s life.
How did ACC prepare you for your career in surgical technology?
The instructors were excellent and I really enjoyed my time at ACC, especially in lab and at my clinical sites. The hands-on experience prepared me for the real world.
What differentiates your skill set from graduates who went to other institutions?
I’m very competitive by nature, so I arrived wanting to be the best in my class. I studied a lot and made sure I asked questions. My lab instructors were so helpful and made sure we were prepared before going out to clinicals. This is key. I see so many students from other institutions not prepared and coming into the OR without the basic fundamentals of the job.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I received was to speak up. Make whatever it is known. It can be challenging for a student or new surgical tech because of nerves or because you don’t want to point out when someone does something wrong, but you have to remember that we have someone’s life in our hands. Be a patient advocate. Do the right thing.
Tell us about an impactful experience you’ve had with a patient.
I grew up in Orange County. There’s been a lot of times where I have operated on someone I know, or is the family member of someone I know. I remember back in 2011, I was setting up my case and noticed the name of the next patient. She was a friend of my mother, someone that has known me since I was little. I hurried to set up my back table so that I could scrub out and say hi and be close to her when she came into the OR. She was having a fairly major surgery to remove cancer and I wanted her to know that I was there. I remember she lit up when she saw me. She held my hand as she went to sleep. The surgery went well and I got to see her in recovery before she was discharged. Since then, she tells everyone that I am her angel. It touches my heart when I hear this from mutual friends. This is why I do what I do and love it so much.
ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student. For graduation rates, median debt of graduates completing this program and other important information, visit americancareercollege.edu/disclosures.
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