In honor of Veteran’s Day approaching this Friday, I would like to highlight a career that can transition some medical skills acquired during military service into a similar job at home; surgical technician. I’ll also introduce you to a program that can help pay for the training and the national certification exam.
Formerly called scrub nurses or operating room technicians, surgical technologists assist in surgeries under the guidance of surgeons or nurses. It is the surgical technologist that “preps” the operating room with necessary equipment and sterile solutions. It is also the technologist that may get the patient ready for the procedure by washing and shaving the incision site, then draping them for the procedure. They might also watch vital signs and help the team to get dressed and gloved for the procedure.
During the operation, it is the technologist who passes instruments, cuts the sutures, and counts the sponges and supplies. They may also take the specimen to the lab or take the patient to recovery after the procedure.
Up Close and Personal
I spoke with, Pam, a Workforce Solutions customer who worked as a Surgical Technologist, and taught the profession in both a classroom and a clinical setting. Reflecting on how the profession changed over the years, she admitted that “medical technology changes every day.” She explained that medical care is augmented with more and more technological advances through computerized and robotic methods.
Pam laughed that a doctor once proclaimed, “Laparoscopic will never make it.” But now it’s the preferred method to avoid both longer healing times of open wounds and the threat of infection.
As a surgical technologist Pam holds many vivid memories from her career. There are the urgent needs of gunshot wounds which require fast action and the unusual situations such as the rancher skewered by the PVC pipe and walking away with only flesh wounds after its removal.
“There is not a day that goes by in surgery that you don’t learn something new.” reflected Pam.
There are also the more personal touches that you get to add. Pam recalled, “The best experience in my memory is that of a child in Pediatrics who had cancer pretty bad. I would would go set up the operating room for the surgery, then ‘break scrub’ to go blow up several latex gloves into balloons and paint faces on them to entertain the little girl, while someone else started her IV drip. The child giggled at the balloons and had no clue that a needle once again punctured her little arm.”
Outlook and Education
So, for the person who enjoys variety in their work, this may well be the profession of choice. The job is expected to grow by 24% by 2016 to assist with all the new technology used in medical procedures on all those aging baby boomers.
The Surgical Technologist Certification is now required to practice as a surgical technologist in Texas. This may be obtained by completing a certified program and sitting for the national exam. The certification can be maintained with continuing education hours or re-examination.
As one of the seven college facilitators of the $3 million grant in the College Credit for Heroes program, Houston Community College – Coleman has begun an on-line accelerated certification program for surgical technicians. Qualified veterans will receive credit for the medical training they received while serving and preparation for the national exam. For more information on this program or any of the schools, classes and programs associated with HCC Coleman College, contact them at (713) 718-7639, visit them on the web at http://coleman.hccs.edu or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/hcccolemancollege.
The Lone Star College System, San Jacinto and Lee College are also facilitators of this grant with additional programs for veterans. If surgical technology is not the fit for you, they may have a program that fits you like a glove. So contact them as well and ask about the College Credit for Heroes grant.
Our veterans have seen things and served in areas that most civilians will never see. For all that you have done, we thank you for your service and sacrifice.
Sharan Nunn is an employment counselor with Workforce Solutions – Pasadena. With a background as a human resources generalist, she has experience in both health care and hospitality industries, where outstanding customer service equals success. Sharan is a native of East Texas, and has called Houston home long enough to remember when the Astrodome was the new “Eighth Wonder of the World.”