By Jinnie Gardiner


Students show off the masks they made during the mask decorating contest of the Surgical Technology Olympics at North-West College.

National Surgical Technologists Week is arguably the most important week of surgical technology students’ training. It is the time to emphasize the importance of our profession, certification, and the tremendous value we bring to the operating room team.

When I hold program orientation for our students, I make them aware that surgical technologists are one of only three professions that are specifically trained to work in the operating room. I let my students know, once they finish the program, that they are not “just a tech,” but rather a surgery specialist. The distinction makes all the difference.

During NSTW, we host what is known as the Surgical Technology Olympics. The events are geared around the students as a whole, keeping in mind the ultimate goals that the Olympics will strengthen individual and team lab skills, cognitive skills, and creativity. Our goal for each of our students is to be able to showcase their individual strengths and afford them an opportunity to learn where their own strengths lie.

Below is an outline of our Olympic-themed week. Take some ideas and host your own!

Day 1: Opening Ceremony and Mask-Decorating Contest


We begin the week with an Olympic-themed opening ceremony. The students make an Olympic torch out of an asepto syringe and march to the first day’s event: a mask-decorating contest. In this activity, students are given blank masks and encouraged to design them creatively to show off who they are. Last year, the winner of the contest attached a long spider beard and large tongue; the more creative, the better! We have been able to discover that some of our students have excellent artistic abilities: we’ve seen hand-drawn skulls, Spider-Man webs, and a variety of very intricate details. Sparking individual creativity is a fun and exciting way to begin the week for students whose work many not typically call for artistry. We love to see what they design!

Day 2: “Brainiac Event”

Students in each class are given a series of questions based on their level in the program. For each question answered correctly, they receive a Smartie. The student with the most Smarties at the game’s end wins. The friendly competition (and candy) excites the students, who enjoy having a different venue in which to test their knowledge.

Day 3: Team Events

Our first event of the third day is the “asepto toss,” which takes inspiration from the classic egg toss. Everyone splits into teams of two, and each student is given a large basin that they must use to catch and toss the asepto. After each toss, the students take a step back and continue to toss the asepto, and then they repeat the process. The last team that does not drop the asepto wins.

The second team event of the day is the water event. Students split into two teams yet again, but for this event each student is given a different-sized syringe, and one student on each team has an asepto. Each student takes turns filling the syringe or asepto and squirts the water into a cylinder—the first team to fill theirs wins. There is an emphasis on teamwork, and field-day-style events bring out the inner kids in the students.

Day 4: Awards and Closing Ceremonies

pizza-partyOn the last day, winning students are given Olympic-themed medals. After the awards ceremony, the students enjoy a pizza party, drawings for gift cards, and closing ceremonies. This year we are adding a new activity to our closing ceremonies, from the thoughts of our senior students—stay tuned; pictures will say it all.


During the closing ceremonies we re-emphasize the importance of surgical technologists. We provide our students with a list of opportunities to be involved as a student. Our goal is to get our students excited and motivated to be involved and take control of the destiny of our profession as certified surgical technologists.

jinnie-gardiner-headJinnie Gardiner, CSFA, is program director of surgical technology at North-West College in Long Beach, California.