By Stephanie Austin, MA, CST, FAST

Surgical technology has a long history in the medical community. The education for this profession began as on-the-job training only. As the profession grew, more education was required to hold this position. Beginning this year, in 2022, the official transition to an associate degree has begun.

As educators, it is our job to train the next generation of surgical technologists. We mold their minds to understand the concepts and importance of sterile technique. We instill processes and procedures so students can enter the operating room with confidence. We prepare them to anticipate the needs of even the ficklest surgeon. We do all of this for the love of teaching and the love of the profession.

Lou Holtz, former head coach for Notre Dame football said it best: “Ability is what you are capable of doing, motivation determines what you do, and attitude determines how well you do it.” This statement holds true in all aspects of life, but especially in education. Identifying the ability our students have is the first step in molding them into professionals. As we teach our students, we motivate them to be the best they can be and to succeed at doing the things they never thought they could. With that success comes the confidence and attitude that they know their job and they do it well.

But what about us as educators? We have all proven we have the ability to be great surgical technologists, we were motivated to excel, and our attitude showed that we were the best in our respective areas. We mentored students in the hospital and we trained new employees. Yet now we have stepped out of our comfort zone into the world of education, an area where we are not necessarily the expert. We all enter this profession with the desire to share our knowledge, but the way in which we do this is very different from what we did as clinicians.

As educators, we need to always seek new ways of teaching a lesson. We need to prepare for what the future holds in education. One way we can do this is to go beyond the operating room, find a new passion in education, and work to reach that next pinnacle, that next degree. Yes, it is scary to go back to school, but just as students, you must realize your ability to be successful, find the motivation within you to do it, and have the attitude that you will also excel in this career.

Many educators tell me they can’t afford to go back to school. There are many scholarships available to help you pay for school. The ARC/STSA has a scholarship for educators pursuing academic degrees. Ask your employer if there is education assistance available to you. If you wait until you can afford it, it will never happen. As we push our students to continue to learn and excel, we must follow our own advice. Don’t be afraid to take that step. Find your motivation. Go forward and be amazing. You are a surgical technologist… you’ve got this!

Stephanie Austin, MA, CST, FAST, is an Assistant Professor and Director of Surgical Technology at Walters State Community College in Sevierville, TN. She has served on the TNAST Board of Directors for the last three years, has been a site visitor for the ARC/STSA for the last two years, and served on the ARC/STSA’s Best Practices Task Force. She is working on her EdD at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in Teaching and Learning and was the recipient of ARC/STSA’s 2021 Chris Keegan Memorial Educator Scholarship. She’s the mom of three grown boys and an 8-year-old chocolate lab and spends most of her spare time enjoying the mountains or watching Tennessee Vols football.