By Chris Ahearn, AAS, CST

Surgical Technology educators from around the country met virtually on February 24 for our third Better Together brainstorming event of 2022. Recruiting and retaining top surgical technology students was on everyone’s mind, and the ideas shared will help shape the future of surgical technology education for the betterment of our students, our programs, and especially our shared communities of interest. Our year is off to a great start with the latest installment of this increasingly popular series, Better Together Success Strategy Talks.

From suggestions of a five-semester program with summers off, to arranging student field trips visiting instrument or implant manufacturers, the ideas shared flowed like saline into a solution bowl. Excited to discuss their ideas for recruiting and retaining our valuable students, educators were enthusiastic and passionate about finding ways to better our students’ experience.

Here are some of the ideas shared by more than 40 educators during the February Better Together workshop:

Ideas for Increasing Recruitment of Surgical Technology Students

  • Reach out to middle schools for student field trips to your college. This will capture their imaginations early.
  • Bring the LapSim portable unit to high school career fairs or community days. Create a buzz with T-shirts, food and beverages.
  • Invite interested local high school students to shadow a ST student for the day.
  • Pair an already-interviewed candidate with a senior ST student, with focus on lab time.
  • Involve your local newspaper by asking them to cover one of these visually engaging activities.

Some educators took things a step further by introducing ideas that are in touch with this fast-paced digital age we live in (or are trying to, anyway!).

Listen to these recruiting gems and tell me we weren’t on fire!

  • Partner with programs in your state to support the advancement of middle and high school students through postsecondary education and careers, such as New York’s Liberty Partnership Programs.
  • Get students involved in your community during the holiday season
  • Form a partnership with local hospitals to fund education for employees. Educators noted that some of their most successful students were sterile processing techs from local clinical facilities. Offer interested Central Sterile Supply personnel a tour of the program.

You’ve Got Them… Now How to Keep Them? Ideas for Retention of Surgical Technology Students

  • Get to know your students. Have an open-door policy and stick to it.
  • Identify hospital personnel who go above and beyond when teaching (we all know who they are). Recognize and thank them for providing outstanding educational experiences for your students with an award certificate, handwritten note, lunch, or gift card.
  • Provide a work/life balance for students. Less burned-out students are more likely to succeed.
  • Encourage students to focus on self-care during academic breaks.
  • Get creative by offering more evening classes and/or clinical rotations.
  • Offer students a “Success Center” or “Seminars on Success” for help with:
    • Life skills
    • Time management
    • Test taking skills
    • Computer literacy brush up
    • Homework submission skill review

Stay tuned for the next Better Together Success Strategy Talk on Thursday, April 28, 12 – 1 MT. April’s topic is entitled, Being Your Own Cheerleader: Successfully Navigating Program Management as a One-Person Show. Register here to share ideas on how to find resources and advocate for your program when you are the serving as the program director, clinical coordinator and sole faculty member.

A personal note of thanks to all the folks at EdAccred for putting these Better Together sessions together for educators. We love having a meeting place to regularly share our ideas.

Aeger Primo!

Chris Ahearn, AAS, CST
, served in the United States Air Force from 1978-1982 where he received his CST training. Ahearn worked for more than 30 years at the Level I Trauma Center -Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island as a CST, clinical educator, ST program instructor, and finally, as program director at Suffolk County Community College, which received its initial accreditation in 2021. Ahearn serves on ARC/STSA’s Editorial Advisory Board where he is an active contributor.