Henry Viray Jr. always knew he wanted to work in the medical field. Growing up, he was surrounded by family members who worked in medicine, ranging from nurses to pharmacy technicians. For Henry, a South San Francisco native, it was just a matter of finding the right match, one that paired well with his interests.
“I like working with (medical) instruments, being hands-on, in the operating room, and working with the surgeons,” Viray said. “My counselor emailed me about the surgical tech program at Skyline. I was interested, I applied and I got accepted.”
The Surgical Technologist program offered at Skyline College, in San Bruno, Calif., is a 12-month intensive training course that combines academic and clinical instruction that includes learning to prepare surgical instruments, passing them to surgeons, and handling specialized equipment. Students graduate to become certified surgical technologists (CST). CSTs are members of surgical teams who work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other surgical personnel in delivering patient care and assuming appropriate responsibilities before, during, and after surgery.
“With our state-of-the-art simulated operating room, we orient the students to the actual environment of a surgical experience,” Program Director Alice Erskine said. “The students have access to a large number of specialty instrument sets and supplies that prepare them to work with a variety of services.”
The program follows the core curriculum for the surgical technologist, developed by the Association of Surgical Technologists, Inc. In addition to classroom instruction, students begin with simulations for one semester and then are matched with local hospitals.
“After practicing with our lab instructors, they (students) are assigned to two different hospitals where they complete more than 500 hours of hands-on training,” Erskine said.
Upon completion of the program, students are qualified to sit for the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Surgical Technologists and Surgical Assistants.
“In my first clinical rotation, I worked with very seasoned surgical techs who taught me their tricks and their experience,” said Ashley Pagobo of San Francisco. “It’s really good to be trained by the hospitals. What we’re learning, it changes your whole life and how you deal with circumstances.”
Since its inception in 1990, over 300 students have graduated from the program. Currently, the program is housed at Skyline’s Surgical Career Center on campus.
“Our center features a large classroom, three offices, the operating room, substerile room, and the sterile processing room,” Erskine said. “The result is that Skyline has the reputation of being the best surgical tech program in the Bay Area.”
Combining the classroom and clinicals, students graduate the program feeling ready to begin within their new career.
“This program has helped me experience the hospital and the OR (operating room) environment. I get to meet nurses, nurse managers, talk with them and build connections,” Viray said. “The program is challenging and you learn a lot. My plan when I’m done is to apply at hospitals that are hiring. The possibilities are open and I think this is a great stepping stone because I can move up.”
Prospective applicants can learn more about the program by visiting Skyline College’s website. Applications are accepted from January to April, and prerequisites are required.
Story by Tasha Rassuli Jackson