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Surgical Tech Program Moved to Moberly Area Community College

The Missouri college's program, which trains students to prepare sterile instruments for surgery, was formerly administered by the Columbia Area Career Center before regulations mandated a two-year credential.

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Moberly Area Community College surgical technology program student Carleigh Phillips, 22, right, prepares to give Kenzie Marty, 19, a surgical instrument Tuesday during a passing technique exercise.
Don Shrubshell/Tribune
(TNS) — One student described being in the operating room for a brain surgery.

Another provided details of a leg amputation.

There also were students who were in the room for a Cesarean section birth, a robotic prostate surgery and a spinal fusion surgery.

It was all part of the morning clinical rotations for students in the Moberly Area Community College surgical technology program.

Now back in the classroom, the students don surgical gowns, gloves and masks in a mock surgery setup, testing each other on their knowledge of surgical instruments and their ability to pass them correctly to the surgeon.

In an echo of the program's evolution, classes are held at the Columbia Area Career Center, where it was established. New regulations require a two-year associate degree program for surgical technologist certification, while the career center program was a one-year program.

So it transitioned to Moberly Area Community College. The last CACC surgical technology class graduated in 2019. There was a year in between the CACC program ending and the MACC program starting, which roughly corresponded with the height of the pandemic.

Another holdover from the career center program is Carrie DeLine. A surgical technologist, she is program director for the Moberly Area Community College surgical technology program.

The year between programs allowed the MACC program to get accredited, DeLine said.

The current class is the second one. Prerequisites take about a year, with professional training during the second year, she said.

"We do over 700 clinical hours" in hospitals, DeLine said.

Surgical technologists prepare sterile instruments for surgery in advance of the operation and have them ready when the surgeon arrives. They scrub in and keep sterile for the duration of the surgery, where they pass instruments to the surgeon when the surgeon needs them.

It's not a well-known profession, she said.

"Everybody knows about nursing," DeLine said. "Nobody knows what a surgical technologist is, because people are asleep during surgery."

But it's a job that's in high demand, she said. There were seven openings for surgical technologists in local hospitals on the day she spoke. In Columbia, the starting wage for a surgical technologist is $18.50 to $19 an hour.

During her hiatus, she worked as a traveling tech to earn money, she said.

There are 10 students in the current class.

For Lena Kolostov, 18, surgical technology is a stepping stone to medical school. The youngest student in the class, she graduated from Hickman High School in May.

"I want to go to med school," Kolostov said. "Just having the first-hand experience will help me. It's a good field, too."

It will also allow her to earn money while going to school, she said.

"Everything I'm learning about in school will be reinforced" in the operating room, she said.

Others found different routes to the program.

"I originally wanted to be a nurse," said Alea Applegate, 22.

Learning the dozens of instruments is difficult, she said. So is staying sterile in the operating room when she may unconsciously scratch her nose.

It's fun to learn new things and experience things most others don't, she said.

A family friend who had been through the program led to Kenzie Marty's interest. From Centralia, she's 19.

She observed robotic surgery in which the surgical technologist cleans the instruments and attaches them to the robots.

"I've always been interested in health care," Marty said. "The O.R. has always been interesting to me. It's something not a lot of people get to do."

Isaiah Thomas, 19, of Keytesville, also is using surgical technology as a path to medical school.

"I was trying to decide what the best route is" to medical school, Thomas said. "Med school is not cheap."

Surgical technology will give him valuable experience and much more, he said.

"I get to see what most med students never see," he said.

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