A Q&A Featuring Admissions Reps From the University of St. Francis

Several years ago, enrollment for the surgical technology program was down at the University of St. Francis (USF). In need of new avenues to recruit students, Surgical Technology Program Director Theresa Sorgen-Burleson, MBA, CST, turned to her admissions team. But rather than ask to increase their efforts, she sought to help them understand the profession. “We set up a time for the admissions team to experience what it would be like to be a surgical technologist. We brought them to our lab and dressed them up in caps, gowns and gloves,” Sorgen-Burleson says. “They were able to pass instruments and use the laparoscopic simulator. We discussed the rigors of the program and what the role of a surgical technologist entails.” As the inaugural exercise was a success, Sorgen-Burleson and her admissions team have since continued to meet each year in this capacity. We spoke with the admissions team to hear their take on the experience.

How did this collaborative exercise help you understand what surgical technology students do? ​

Carrie Reeb, Associate Director of Enrollment Management: This experience put us in the shoes of surgical technology students, which helped us better understand their experience and training at USF.

Aaron Lloyd, Admissions Counselor: This experience was extremely helpful for me. At the time, I was five months into this job and about to head out on my travel season [to college fairs], so this helped me understand what the program was and what graduates went on to do, as well. Going into the session, I had in my mind that this program produced surgeons, but Theresa helpfully explained what the program entails. She also gave me examples of what graduates do and made references to popular culture, like surgical technologists in Grey’s Anatomy.

Kenan Habibić, Admissions Counselor: Being able to experience and learn about surgical technology was really helpful, especially since I only came to USF a few weeks before Aaron. It’s always nice to get a great visual presentation and be able to ask questions. This has definitely helped me better communicate information to perspective students. Theresa also mentioned many great selling points for the program, of which I was not aware. I believe we should continue to do this periodically to refresh our knowledge and understanding of the profession.

What surprised you about the experience?

CR: It stuck with me that this job is not for everyone. Surgical technologists can’t fear the hands-on, highly involved, gritty work they will perform during surgery. We also learned that their work day will never be the same — rather there will always be something new, exciting and important.

AL: The biggest thing that surprised me about the experience was the type of equipment that the program has at its disposal (more importantly, the price of some of the tools). It was nice to see those and have them explained to me so I can talk about it to students who are interested in surgical technology.

KH: One of the biggest surprises and takeaways from the experience was learning about the connections we have with the local hospital and how much they donate to help us educate our students. It was also nice to learn the difference between nurses in surgery compared to surgical technologists. This helps us communicate that information to students who say they’re interested in nursing, but [based on their interests] may actually want to be surgical technologists.

What is the value of an exercise like this? How did it improve your relationship as a team and your ability to support students and faculty?

CR: It’s one thing to talk about what a program is like, but to experience it ourselves and describe it from that perspective is invaluable. We can better support students by describing our own experience versus what we have just been told or read about.

AL: The value of this experience was to learn about the program from the leaders of it, instead of learning about it from our website or a practice sheet. It also really helped build our relationship with the department and Theresa. It was an opportunity to put a face to an email address and it made me more comfortable to reach out directly via phone or email if I had questions about the program or with a potential student.

KH: It’s always nice to get together and see an in-person presentation, and talk about programs. There is a lot less miscommunication and, as admissions counselors, we learn more about the program and how we can better promote it. Being on the opposite side of campus, we don’t see each other as much as we would like, so getting to meet and learn how we can work together toward our goals is a benefit.