By Connie Bell, CST, FAST, Special Projects Consultant Surgical Technology for Success Education Colleges

Joanne Schmidt, Public Member for the Surgical Technology Program Advisory Committee (PAC)

The Public Member for the Surgical Technology Program Advisory Committee (PAC) holds a duty to represent the interests of the patient that may come under the care of the surgical technologist, and therefore has a vested interest in the proper education of the surgical technologist for quality patient care.

I believe this is a very powerful description. The opportunity to give feedback on the educational program, participate in analysis of outcomes, and offer unbiased suggestions and alternatives was a job well fit for my good friend Joanne Schmidt. It didn’t take much to convince her to be part of our PAC, but it took some arm-twisting to sit and allow me to candidly interview her for this article.

Joanne is a mother of seven children and has 18 grandchildren ranging from four to 22 years-old, plus one granddaughter due in December. Throughout her busy life she has always found time to volunteer her services, lend a helping hand, listen, and have fun – all with a servant heart. The conversation went as follows:

Why did you decide to participate as a member of the PAC?
I always enjoyed participating in school activities as a member of the PTA while the kids were in their formative years. The opportunity to do same for the College and at the same time learn about your profession was intriguing. Even though I have had my share of doctors and hospital visits, Surgical Technology was something new and the concept that you did not need to be a nurse to work in the operating room was interesting to me.

What type of volunteering work have you done?
Most of my volunteering has been dedicated either to school or church work. I have chaired school fundraising activities, instructed on Religious Education classes, counseled teenagers through the Right to Life organization and served as an interpreter for the Church of the Deaf.

Have you made any recommendations during your PAC meetings?
I have been a member of this PAC for several years now and am very comfortable expressing my opinion and offering suggestions when applicable. The program is well known in the community, well attended during the meetings, and we have a lot of interaction among the members. I can’t recall a specific recommendation as a Public Member, but have participated in discussions and recommendations offered by other members in relation to surgical-specific decisions, such as clinical affiliations or textbook recommendations.

Do you think Surgical Technologists should hold the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential as requirement for employment?
I completely agree that new graduates and/or new hospital employees should be CST’s. I am concerned though with the seasoned employees in the surgical arena being terminated after many years of employment, and maybe doing a great job in a position where certification was not mandatory when they received their training. I am glad to see that there is opportunity for them to retrain via on-line programs and achieve their CST credential.

During the PAC meetings when goals and outcomes are presented, do you feel the information given is important for you as a member of the community to assess the viability and compliance of the Program?
This is my favorite portion of the meeting (besides the food)! I could not imagine my participation in a committee such as this if the goals were not met or the outcomes were continuously below established benchmarks. I understand an educational program may find itself below desired outcomes; it happens in other organizations, as well. If plans for improvement fail, then a more in depth self-analysis and appropriate guidance should be initiated.

Utilizing a Likert Scale, please rank the following outcomes in order of importance to you as a representative of the patient (5 being the most important and 1 the least important).
( 4 ) Retention
( 1 ) Certification
( 2 ) Employment
( 5 ) Graduate Satisfaction (with the program)
( 3 ) Employer Satisfaction (with the novice graduate)

I was very pleased of my conversation with Joanne. There were many other topics we covered – too many to enumerate here, but one thing was certain: she knew her responsibilities, she understood our program, she felt her value as a committee member, she was proud of her responsibilities, and as usual, she continues to serve others with a servant heart.