Ashley Koppenheffer, a radiologic technician from the University of Washington, has been highly involved in her team’s robotic program since it started in August 2018. This year, Ashley attended our second annual RoboSummit, a meeting of robotics experts from across the globe, to discuss the important role of the bedside user during robotic intervention. At the meeting, Ashley hosted a hands-on educational session for seven other robotics super users, sharing her first-hand experience with complex robotic intervention and pointers for sharpening their skills with robotics.
Read on to learn more about Ashley’s hobbies, what led her to the cath lab, and how she and her team have embraced robotics.
Tell us a little bit about your background. When did you become interested in cardiology?
AK: I attended Bloomsburg University as a Kinesiology major with the intent of going into Physical Therapy or Sports Medicine. As I took more physiology classes and assisted in research, I started to become more interested in clinical populations. One of my professors suggested the Geisinger Cardiovascular Technology program to me. I observed for a day in the Cath Lab and was immediately sucked in. I attended the 1yr post bachelors accelerated program and never looked back!
Your team has performed over 230 robotic procedures since you started in August 2018. When you look back at the start of your program, how has your program and team evolved since implementing robotics?
AK: At the start of our program my coworker Stephen Huynh and I were the initial users and in the first three months we were in our Robotic Lab everyday just grinding out cases. Since then we have worked to train the rest of our Technologists (~15 total.) Our goal is to have every Technologist on our team comfortable and competent using the Robot.
What is your favorite part about using robotics? What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced?
AK: The independence and added challenge from the Technologist role has been really great for me. I am the type of person who really flourishes with a new challenge and opportunity to use my brain more to problem solve. I think the fresh engagement has helped me become a better Technologist even on manual PCI.
Dr. Lombardi is a high volume CTO operator. How do you tackle these types of complex procedures using robotics?
AK: CTO and complex cases are almost better suited for Robotic PCI than an easy Type A lesion. Once we cross a CTO and go on Robot we typically use between 4-8 devices. With that many exchanges it is important to be efficient to keep the case moving. Our stenting and sizing has gotten better with the use of precise measuring in conjunction with IVUS, so our end results have been improving (in my opinion.)
In October, you attended Corindus’ second annual RoboSummit and stressed the importance of involving techs in building a robotic program. What are some key things physicians can do to help their techs succeed while launching a robotic program?
AK: Education and patience are key. For Robotic programs starting out it is important that Interventionalists start teaching and involving staff more. It is not enough to know the ‘how,’ staff need to understand the ‘why’ as well. The better understanding you have of procedures and treatment decisions the more efficient and safer your procedures will become. This is so important in Robotic PCI when the Technologist is alone at the table. At the start of a program, patience from the Interventionalist is absolutely critical. The first handful of cases for each Technologist are going to be slow and have hiccups. There is so much to learn and muscle memory to build. It is important to really commit to the struggle of those first few cases. The team will not get faster or proficient without experience. Staying patient and positive throughout the learning process will really help everyone involved!
What are your hobbies outside the cath lab?
AK: I live on my sailboat in Seattle with my boyfriend and dog, we frequently take trips to the islands in Puget sound to enjoy the natural beauty, free dive and spearfish. I enjoy hiking in the PNW in the summer. My favorite hikes lead to gem colored alpine lakes that are good for a cool down swim. I also enjoy traveling abroad and taking road trips through our beautiful country. If there is an adventure to be had, count me in!
Ashley performing devices exchanges at the bedside on the big screen during a live complex robotic-assisted PCI procedure at TCT 2018!
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