When she graduated from Battlefield High School in Haymarket in 2015, Warrenton resident Hollie Hurdle wasn’t sure what her next steps would be. She watched her friends go off to college, many with funding from their parents.
Hurdle knew whatever she did, she had to do it herself. Like her older sister, she decided to enroll in Northern Virginia Community College, referred to as NOVA.
Hurdle, 21, thought she’d go into the RN program at NOVA, knowing that nursing was a field with excellent job security, but wasn’t accepted into the program. At the time, she wasn’t aware of LFCC’s RN program, which is accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
And, while Hurdle didn’t know about LFCC’s nursing program in time to apply, she did notice the surgical technology certificate program, and applied. She decided to go for it, figuring it would be a year before she could apply to the nursing program at LFCC.
Hurdle was in the second cohort of students taking surgical technology classes at LFCC’s Vint Hill site. Surgical technologists are part of the surgical team – they set up equipment and supplies needed during an operation, and pass instruments to the surgeon.
According to Lisa Day, program instructor at Vint Hill, they can become educators or surgical assistants, and can work in hospitals, surgical offices, ambulatory care units or the military. Day is also the president of the Virginia State Assembly of the Association of Surgical Technologists.
LFCC’s surgical technology program started at the college’s Middletown Campus in 2004. The three-semester program includes classes in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, fundamentals of surgical care, surgical pharmacology and microbiology.
Students must graduate from an accredited surgical technology program in order to take the national certification exam to become a certified surgical technologist.
“I was kind of intimidated when I first started my surgical technology classes,” Hurdle says. “Lisa told us we’d have to know all of the instruments by the end of the first week. To my surprise, I did know all of them by the end of that week. That’s when I realized I was capable of doing something I didn’t even realize I could do.”
All of the surgical technologists-in-training must participate in at least 120 surgical cases in order to graduate from the program.
Hurdle did most of her cases at Reston Hospital Center, a Level II trauma center, meaning it can provide the start of care for all types of patients. She also got a job in the hospital’s sterile processing department.
Shortly after graduating from the surgical technology program in late July, Hurdle started her new job at Reston Hospital Center,
“People are really nice and very helpful at the hospital,” she says. “It’s very busy, but it’s a very rewarding feeling after a case is finished.”
Day and instructor JaLynda Buckingham were “so nice,” according to Hurdle.
“Lisa shares her real-life experiences as a surgical technologist and surgical first assist,” she says. “It’s not like she’s just reading out of a textbook. We’re not going into the operating room textbook-smart. We’re going in there real-life smart.
“Lisa and JaLynda always looked out for us. Knowing they were there behind me made me less nervous during clinicals. It’s like having another mom.”
Hurdle, who plans to finish her associate degree through NOVA this fall and may later earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, community health or medical management, says she recommends LFCC’s surgical technology program to “everybody.”
“I give out Lisa Day’s business cards like candy all the time,” she laughs. “I think the program taught me more than just how to be a surgical technologist. I feel like it’s also helped me learn time management and how to prioritize.”
As of May 2017, the average salary of a surgical technologist in Virginia was $51,450, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For more information about LFCC’s surgical technology program, visit www.lfcc.edu/surgtech.