The first cohort of Wallace Community College’s Surgical Technology program will be graduating on May 12 after two years of ups and downs, including the COVID-19 pandemic that halted all their clinical studies last year.
The four program graduates — Brantlee Kirkland, Abigail Jones, Maggie Beth Harrison, and Tiffany Worley — said they are ready to head into their field and meet the growing demand for surgical technologists.
“We’ve had four or five employers come to speak with them and asking them all to apply,” Program Director Dennis Davis said. “Wallace is the only program like this within about 100 miles. They could have a job at any hospital they want at this point.”
Worley said her job as a surgical technician is to be the surgeon’s right hand man, prepping the room, passing instruments, and making the process as smooth as possible.
“We want to be there and give the surgeon what they need before they ever even have to ask for it,” Worley said.
When the pandemic hit, everything halted for the graduates. When they were supposed to be in a mix of classes and clinicals, they ended up at home doing check-offs over zoom with a Cabbage Patch Kids doll.
“We made the best of it and we got through it,” Worley said. “The pandemic put us behind on doing clinicals, so once we started back last fall we never really came back to class, it was all clinical focused. There were no more Cabbage Patch dolls then.”
Jones said although it was hard to navigate the scheduling mix-ups caused by the pandemic, she was glad being able to focus solely on clinicals without the distraction of exams the past two semesters.
Davis said he thinks the pandemic helped the graduates to learn to be organic, just like they will have to be on the job.
“One minute you will be doing one thing and the next you’ll be doing another,” Davis said. “That’s how this career works. They needed to learn to expect change at a moment’s notice.”
The graduates joked that adapting to constant change during the pandemic was similar to adapting to the ever-changing environment during a surgery, even if a surgeon claims they do something the same every time.
“The only thing the surgeon does the same way every time is tell you he does it the same,” Davis joked.
The graduates turned in their last documentation of clinical cases on Thursday and are awaiting graduation day, when they will trade in their student head covers for cloth ones — a rite of passage for surgical technicians, Davis said.
“It feels good to be in the first group to graduate from this program here at Wallace,” Kirkland said. “Now, I think we are all just ready to go be a part of a team.”
Sydney McDonald is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or 334.712.7906. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.