Thomas Wolfe may have said, “You can’t go home again,” but Raetta Coleman was not listening. Coleman recently returned to Robeson Community College to reactivate the college’s Surgical Technology program after a two-year hiatus.
The program began in 2005 under the direction of Ernest Singley, who came from Wake Med expressly for that purpose. Singley equipped the college with a scrub station and a fully functional operating room and guided the program through the accreditation process with the Accreditation Review Council on Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting in 2006.
Singley hired Coleman as the program’s clinical coordinator in January 2010. When Singley left later that year, Coleman assumed the director’s duties and led the program until the spring of 2015, when she left for a position in at McLeod hospital.
At that time the college was facing budget cuts due to lower enrollment as many students went back to work when the economy began to recover. As a cost-cutting effort, the Surgical Technology program was put on inactive status.
Coleman returned as director of the program in February to begin working to reactivate the program for fall 2017. Coincidentally, the college received a letter of continuing accreditation from ARC/STSA that same month. Coleman has been busy recruiting students, updating curriculum, and rewriting tests, handbooks and syllabi.
Coleman’s goal is to begin the fall class with 12 students, the maximum number for which the program has been approved. In the 10 years that the program was active, Coleman estimates that between 100 and 120 students went through the program.
“I’ve gotten lots of emails and lots of phone calls,” she said, noting that the program’s medical partners in the region are excited about the prospect of having more surgical technologists in the labor pool.
Surgical technologists prepare the operating room for surgery. The operating room at Robeson Community College has the instrumentation, scrub sinks, cautery, suction, and an anesthesia machine. The building is certified so that the operating room could be used in the event of real life emergencies such as a natural disaster if the local hospital was overwhelmed or incapacitated.
Students complete clinical rotations at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, McLeod Dillon, and McLeod Florence. Graduates will typically go to these same institutions, not only in general surgery, but also labor and delivery. Graduates may also work outside the operating room with professionals such as chiropractors, dentists, oral surgeons, and veterinarians. Graduates may also work in the field of education.
“It’s difficult for a surgeon do his or her job without a surgical technologist. We’re the only ones trained in instrumentation,” Singley said.
Robeson’s program differentiates from some other programs by introducing students to catheterization, blood pressures, and prepping patients, so graduates can perform these duties that may not normally be within their domain.
Robeson’s is a one-year diploma program, but the college will soon offer a two-year associate degree through a bridge program for those that have the diploma. ARC/STSA is mandating that all programs offer the associate level as a minimum by 2021. One-year degrees will be allowed to continue to practice, but all new grads must have an associate degree.
Furthermore, legislation is currently pending in the General Assembly that would require surgical techs to be certified. Certification is granted through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. Certification involves taking a national certification exam just before or just after graduation. The accreditation board requires all students to sit for the exam and each program must report their results to the accrediting organization. During the last three years Robeson’s program was active, 100 percent of graduates sat for the exam and all passed.
Two information sessions will be held on April 4 and May 4 in room 1744B at 3 p.m. about he program. The deadline for applications for the fall class is in May. Details and a sample application form can be found at http://www.robeson.edu/surg/. Prospective students can also contact Coleman at email@example.com or 910-272-3660.
Dennis Watts is the public information officer for Robeson Community College.