Surgical Technician and Radiation Therapy Programs

Rebecca A. Eckland

Students in the Surgical Technician program complete hands-on lab work

More Than a Doctor

Annie Butz is completing her first semester in the Surgical Technician program, which is in its second year of existence, thanks to a partnership with the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). Butz, who completed a bachelor's degree in Pre-Med prior to her acceptance into the Surgical Technician program, grew up wanting to be a doctor. “When you’re a kid, that’s the only person you really see working in the medical field. But, when you get older, you start to realize that there are a lot of jobs you can do that help people.”

Butz investigated various options before she found the Surgical Technician program. Its hands-on approach, real-life experience and competitive job market (both in the Reno area and beyond) made the program an appealing choice for someone who’s not squeamish in the type of high-pressure situations that tend to happen in operating rooms. “Getting this kind of experience is key,” she said.

A Partnership For Success

This is the second year that a partnership between TMCC and CSN have enabled nine students (eight in the Surgical Technician program; one in Radiation Therapy) from the Reno area to complete programs that were previously only available for students from the southern part of the state.

“Before the partnership, these degrees were extremely difficult for students from our area to obtain,” said Toni Hippert, Surgical Tech and Radiation Therapy Program Liaison. “You basically had to relocate to Las Vegas to participate in the program. This not only enables more participation from students in our area, but also provides local hospitals with experienced, trained professionals to fill much-needed positions in our community.”

Both 21-month programs consists of classroom instruction, simulation/lab practice and hands-on supervised clinical experience. Students attending the program in Las Vegas utilize a simulation lab, whereas students in Reno go to a clinic after hours to get instruction similar to the lab classes. All the students start attending clinics during the Spring Semester, their second semester in the program. “The summer clinical time is crucial for students,” said Brooke Chapman, Clinical Director/Instructor. “The repetition of going to clinic every day and following a patient's treatment from start to finish helps students to really understand the various aspects of the work.”

Both programs award successful participants with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, and, for those in the Surgical Technician program, the opportunity to take the national certification exam.

Prospects for program graduates is bright: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that projected growth for Surgical Technicians from 2016–2026 is 12%, which equates to approximately 12,600 job openings. Radiation Therapy is likewise expected to grow in future years, with 2,400 more positions opening, and a 13% growth rate.

Glynis Irving, who is finishing up her first semester in the Surgical Technician program, is drawn to the hands-on experience the program offers that can transfer to job opportunities. “Basically, there’s a great need for these positions in the Reno area,” said Irving. “The program is a really great way to get a lot of practical, hands-on experience.”

Who Is This Program For?

Students who thrive in the Surgical Technician program tend to have an interest in medicine, hold a deep compassion for others and thrive in situations that emphasize hands-on learning.

Both Butz and Irving reiterate this point when asked about their first impressions of the program. While the open-forum classroom discussions are informative, they light up when they talk about their first hands-on experience in the class. For their first class, they were introduced to a process called “gloving and gowning”—basically, how to dress yourself in a sterile manner, as a Surgical Technician would before assisting a surgeon. “It’s a lot harder than it looks,” Irving laughs, remembering her first experience in the Surgical Technician program, “but these kinds of things become habit.”

Through its intensive, hands-on clinical and lab work, graduates of the program can expect to find job opportunities wherever their futures lead them.

More Information

If you are interested in the Surgical Technology and Radiation Therapy programs, RSVP for the Information Session on Friday, Dec. 7 at 5:30–6:30 p.m. in RDMT 256, Dandini Campus. Submit your RSVP—and learn more—by reaching out to Toni Hippert.