College’s surgical technology program offers hands-on experience

November 14, 2017 GMT

In the operating room, time is of the essence. From scrubbing in to arranging medical instruments, surgical technicians are the first ones in a room setting up materials before an operation.

Since 2007, the surgical technology program at Lone Star College-Tomball has given students practical experience to work in operating rooms before graduating, said program director Diane Montagna.

“They’ll have 120 cases before they graduate,” she said.

One of the first things students learn at the surgical technology program at Lone Star College-Tomball is how to wash up before entering an operating room, clinical coordinator LaShunda Fowlks.

“It’s a five to six minute hand scrub,” she said. “We take a brush and we scrub the inside of your fingers and hands. A typically person may take a few seconds, whereas it’s a five minute average.”

Like surgeons, students also suit up in scrubs, aprons, bonnets, shoe covers, protective glasses and two pairs of gloves before entering a mock operating room that includes overhead lights, an operating table and real tools.


Incoming students do not need to have a medical background to be accepted into the two-year program, Montagna said.

They do, however, need to learn how to scrub in and suit up within 15 minutes before moving on to real operating rooms, she said.

During the first semester, students memorize the many different medical instruments, learn how to scrub in and set up an operating room. Students also learn how to sterilize medical instruments, such as scalpels and scissors.

By the second semester, students are able to scrub in and observe before being able to assist surgeons.

While setting up and handing a surgeon medical instruments during a procedure sounds easy, a lot of work happens behind the scenes before doctors see patients.

As a paramedic, Boyd Edwards had to work fast to help patients, patching up wounds and helping deliver babies. As he studies to become a surgical technician, Boyd said surgical technicians require stamina instead of speed.

“Being a paramedic is like being a football player,” Edwards said. “You sprint for a little while. Being a surgical technician is like running a marathon.”

The unpredictability of being an operating room can extend routine procedures, which means the technicians in the room also need to be meticulous and focused.

“A one hour surgery can turn into four hours,” Edwards said.

As a Marine veteran and medic, Edwards said he was interested in staying in the medical field, which is why he is pursuing surgical technology. Eventually, he hopes to work toward assisting in transplant surgeries and learn how to change tools on surgical robots.

Aside from maintaining a sterile environment, students also have to memorize the different operating instruments to be able to help out during a surgical procedure.


“Being able to anticipate what the surgeon will need next is very important,” said Ashley Harris, a student in the program.

Harris, who previously worked as a dance teacher, said she wanted to change careers and seeks to specialize in cardiovascular surgeries.

When she announced she wanted to become a surgical technician, people told her it sounded like a very easy task to assist a surgeon.

“Hello, it’s way more than that,” she told them.