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New Major Showing Early Signs of Success

Under the instruction of Dr. Thomas J. Campana, director of surgical technology, students perform an appendectomy on a mannequinThe first students to enroll in the surgical-technology major at Pennsylvania College of Technology, introduced to help fulfill a community need, are nearing the end of their second semester of study in the associate-degree program.

Interest among students is high, said Dr. Thomas J. Campana, director of surgical technology. The 27-student enrollment for the 2004-05 academic year is double the number of students the college expected, since the program, only offered since Fall 2004, hasn’t yet established a reputation.

Surgical technologists are employed mainly in operating rooms, delivery rooms, clinics and surgical centers. They also work in private surgeons’ and dentists’ offices. They assist with the setup of the operating room and can prepare the patient for surgery. They pass instruments, supplies and equipment to the surgeon and surgical assistants. Surgical technologists also assist the surgeon during procedures. They are responsible for all of the surgical supplies.

The students enrolled in the surgical-technology major are already gaining a wealth of experience. In classes, they have participated in mock surgeries, during which they performed breast biopsies and appendectomies on high-tech mannequins with removable body parts.

Campana said the college’s Surgical Technology Laboratory consists of two real operating suites, which include such equipment as operating tables, anatomically correct mannequins, lights, laparoscopic instruments and a variety of surgical instruments.

“The replication of the operating room allows the students to become familiar with an environment that can be overwhelming and frightening. So when the students enter a real operating room, they are comfortable with all the equipment, the limited surroundings and are able to maintain a sterile field,” he said.

As part of their training, the students are also gaining hands-on experience in local hospitals. Campana said that, this year, the surgical-technology program is partnered with all three campuses of Susquehanna Health System to provide students with the clinical experience required for the degree. In the near future, he hopes to also establish clinical programs with Bloomsburg Hospital, Evangelical Community Hospital (Lewisburg), Jersey Shore Hospital, Lock Haven Hospital, Robert Packer Hospital (Sayre), and Soldiers+ Sailors Memorial Hospital (Wellsboro).

The program’s affiliation with Susquehanna Health System has been a tremendous asset.

“We are truly appreciative of Susquehanna Health System and its support of and participation in Penn College’s surgical technology program,” Campana said. “Right now, the students are getting a lot of experience − a lot more than I even expected,” Campana said.

He said students are already scrubbing and taking on the independent role of the surgical technologist − with experienced surgical technologists and nurses supervising them − during major surgeries.

“I have to say the people at Susquehanna Health System are very delighted,” Campana said, “Their comments are that the students are very well-prepared.”

Because of an expected increase in the volume of surgeries being performed, Campana said, job opportunities for qualified surgical technologists are many.

“There’s a nationwide need for surgical technologists,” Campana said. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgical technology is one of the fastest-growing professions, and is expected to increase 43 percent in the next five to 10 years.”

Campana said surgical technology is also a dynamic occupation, with opportunities to participate in several different types of surgeries each day.

“A degree in surgical technology really gives a chance to make a difference in a patient’s life,” Campana said. “You are a vital part of the surgical team. Every good surgeon has a great surgical technologist. You can make the surgery flow very smoothly. Another great aspect of surgical technology is that no two days are ever the same. No two people are alike. Every day is an adventure.”

The School of Health Sciences at Penn College is pursuing accreditation for the new program from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, in collaboration with the Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology. A site visit is scheduled for mid-November. Campana explained that academic programs are not eligible for accreditation from CAAHEP until their first students are within six to eight months of graduation.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences at Penn College, call (570) 327-4519, e-mail or visit on the Web.

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