By Javier Espinales, MEd, CST

A student’s first rotation as a surgical technologist can be daunting. As educators, we want to prepare students as best we can for the operating room. But what does the operating room expect from surgical technology students? To find out more, I asked a nurse manager and an operating room (OR) educator from two different hospital systems what they expect from a surgical technology clinical student.

Ideally, what do you believe surgical technology students should come into the OR knowing?

Randy Farris, Operating Room Educator, University Hospital: I would like to see more professional communication, self-advocacy and assertiveness — though I am aware it takes time to build such skills, making it a higher expectation. 

Gretchen Wisler, MBA, BSN, Methodist Nurse Manager, Methodist Hospital: Students should enter the OR with an understanding of fundamentals and attention to detail. Students should be able to perform initial hand scrubs, donning and doffing, proper aseptic technique for opening sterile supplies and how to navigate the sterile environment. They should also understand what steps to take when there is a break in technique.   

What advice would you give surgical technology students entering clinicals? 

RF: From day one you are being evaluated for not only clinical proficiency, but professionalism, communication, dedication to practice, self-advocacy and more. Look at clinical rotations as the first phase of your interview process. Based off knowledge, attitude and skills demonstrated during clinicals, most facilities are aware of whom they wish to extend offers to before graduation. Establish a professional image and remember others are always watching — which can serve you well if you work hard. Perceptions are important, so hold yourself to the highest standards. 

GW: Be flexible and open to suggestions on how to do your new role. With multiple preceptors you will be given several different approaches. When you are on your own, choose what works best for you.

Are there any emerging technologies you believe surgical technology program directors should know more about to further elevate their programs, particularly before their students enter clinicals?

RF: Robotics and minimally invasive surgery are going to continue increasing across all service lines. It may not be fiscally possible now, but I advise program directors to keep an eye out for the opportunity to incorporate robotics into their programs.

GW: Robotic procedures have been around since the mid-80s and Methodist Hospital has eight Intuitive Xi’s, two Orthopedic robots and one Intuitive Ion. Partnering with the manufacturers so that students gain greater knowledge of robotic instrumentation and procedures prior to clinical exposure will ensure the students’ success.

Randy Farris and Gretchen Wisler note robotics and minimally invasive surgery as important technology to expose your students to as opportunities arise. Learn more about one free education resource, the Da Vinci Certification, from our February 2021 newsletter Q&A here.

Javier Espinales, MEd, CST, is the director of the surgical technology program at Concorde Career College – San Antonio, where he is responsible for ensuring the program meets CAAHEP accreditation standards, advising students, providing leadership to staff and more. He also serves on the ARC/STSA Editorial Advisory Board.