HCC graduate pursues opportunities in field of surgical technology

Stella Trimble entered Houston Community College’s Surgical Technology Program in 1972 after die age of 40. Her new career began when she became a Certified Surgical Technologist in 1974.

Surgical technologists, also called O.R. techs or scrub nurses, are well-trained professionals who provide valuable support before, during and after operations. Surgical technologists help to prepare the operating room, assuring that instruments, equipment and supplies are sterilized and in working order. They also ready patients for surgery by prepping the incision area, transporting patients to the operating room, taking vital signs, and helping the surgical team scrub and put on their protective gear. During surgery, surgical technologists1 provide an additional set of trained hands for everything from passing instruments to surgeons to maintaining the supply of blood for the patient.

“Initially surgical technologists were only trained on the job, then formal classes were offered,” said Trimble. “Today, students must graduate from an accredited program to be allowed to take the national certification exam.”

Hospitals employ the majority of trained surgical techs (ST), while many STs find work with clinics, private practices and staffing agencies. Trimble has worked as a surgical technologist at local hospitals, surgery centers and in private doctors’ offices, including those of an oral surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon, but she has also followed other opportunities in the field.

“Since 1996 I’ve been an instructor in Houston Community College’s Surgical Technology Program,” said Trimble. “I tell my students ‘always think of the patient first’ and I encourage them to use their critical thinking abilities.”

Trimble has also served on the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist (1990-1996) and is an inspector for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
I travel all over the country to inspect programs that are applying for accreditation and ensure that accredited programs are upholding the standards of the industry,” said Trimble. “Being an inspector is not the only opportunity for travel in the field, many STs work with agencies that recruit staff for hospitals and clinics across the country. They work on a contract basis and can choose where and for how long they stay on an assignment.”

Salaries have improved as hospitals have learned to value educated and certified surgical techs. Nationwide, the demand for surgical techs is as high as the demand for nurses and will likely remain high as the country’s population ages and the number of surgical procedures grows.