Surgery Center aims for patient comfort, safety

By Luke Hales

When most people think of surgery, they’re overwhelmed by a series of jarring thoughts; a packed parking lot, a noisy waiting room, no one to answer questions. For some, it’s easy to feel like they are just passing through, with little advice or personal care.

This is not the case at the Ambulatory Surgery Center, part of San Jacinto Methodist Hospital. For starters, it’s quiet, serene, and comfortable. The environment is one of dedication to the patient’s needs. And for those in the Baytown area, it’s part of the neighborhood.

The Ambulatory Surgical Center has been part of the hospital since the mid-90s, and has steadily grown to accommodate the needs of patients seeking surgeries of all kinds; approximately ten surgeons use the facility regularly for orthopedic work, as well as podiatry, cosmetic surgery, gynecology, pain management, and much more.

Susan Sawyer, director of surgical services at the facility, is a good example of the staff on site; she’s friendly and quick with a smile, willing to answer questions, and she knows her job well, having been a registered nurse for 27 years.

“We do just about everything here but deliver babies and perform heart surgery,” Sawyer said with a laugh.

Indeed, the center handles just about any kind of surgery that doesn’t require an overnight stay — and plenty of them, Sawyer said.

“We do about 40 surgeries a week,” Sawyer said. “We start early (surgeries typically begin around 6 a.m.) so that the doctors can get a head start on their days, and so patients don’t have to wait too long for their operations.”

The ages of the clients vary, Sawyer said. “We see a wide variety of people for a wide variety of needs, from the elderly to high school athletes.”

And that wide variety of patients is treated by a very knowledgable staff. “All of our nurses (six in total) are Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support certified,” Sawyer said. Those certifications mean extra training and education throughout their careers. And the staff continuously prepares for any possible emergency. “We do drills and use codes,” Sawyer said, “ in case someone were to go into cardiac arrest on the operating table or something similar, we’ll be ready.”

The staff tries to make every step of the process as painless as possible, Sawyer said.

“The patients walk into the pre-op rooms, where we get them ready; they change their clothes, sign consent forms, take any medication they need to,” Sawyer said. “The surgeon will come in and talk to them, and make sure they understand the procedure, and they mark the site of the operation.”

One of the more important things that the staff handles is the explanation that, yes, there will be some pain after the surgery. “A lot of people come in and think that there won’t be any pain after we get done, but any time there’s a surgery there will be some level of pain in recovery. We try to let people know that ahead of time, and we remind them on their way out as well.”

Sawyer and her staff believe in what the Ambulatory Surgery Center has to offer. And so do the patients who have come through the doors, if the surveys they fill out are any indication. The surveys are given to each patient as they leave, which they can fill out anonymously. And according to those surveys, the center is meeting the patients’ needs quite well.

“Our patient satisfaction scores are pretty substantial,” Sawyer said. “We have always stayed in the top percentile of the facilities within San Jacinto Methodist Hospital, and within the nation as well.”

Above all else, Sawyer stands by all that the center offers. “We’re oriented toward patient involvement here,” Sawyer said. “It’s efficient, friendly … you feel like you’re at home.

“If I needed procedures done, this is where I’d do them.”

The Ambulatory Surgery Center is located at 1025 Birdsong Drive in Baytown. For more information, call 281-427-4518 or visit