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Surgical Technology Popular Health Career Option
April 10, 2017

Walters State’s Surgical Technology Program is helping to fill a need for health care professionals for positions comparable to nursing in both pay and job satisfaction.

“I tell students they are getting into a great health care field,” said Marcia McMahan, instructor of surgical technology. “It’s all about patient care, no matter if it’s therapy or if you’re treating patients in a doctor’s office as a nurse, or if you’re standing on the front lines in surgery. It’s all the same.”

Surgical technology is among eight health care fields with degree programs at Walters State. Others include health information technology, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, pharmacy technician, physical therapist assistant, pre-allied health, and respiratory care.

Surgical technology is available through Smoky Mountain Health Sciences Consortium, a unique cohort with Roane State Community College. The program includes lecture classes at Walters State’s Sevier County Campus, and via online delivery from Roane State’s Oak Ridge Campus. Both campuses have a lab resembling an operating room and clinical rotations are part of the curriculum

Surgical technologists are allied health professionals who work under medical supervision to facilitate the safe and effective surgical procedures. They have expertise in the theory and application of sterile and aseptic technique and combine the knowledge of human anatomy, surgical procedures, and implementation tools and technology to facilitate a physician's performance of invasive therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.

Melinda Parten, 22, and Jamie Cox, 23, both of Seymour, have completed two semesters of classes. Both said they were drawn to surgical technology by the behind-the-scenes aspects of the patient care involved. 

“I saw the program online and thought it looked pretty interesting,” Cox said. “I had started out pursuing a couple other health care fields, but I soon realized this was the best fit for me.”

Parten and Cox said their favorite part of the program is lab instruction, which occurs in an actual operating room at the school — though the surgical procedures do not involve actual humans. 

“The lab is great because we’re getting to actually see and do the stuff that we’ve been reading about,” Parten said. 

When talking to students interested in the program, McMahan said she informs them about further career options that will be available to them.

“After you get some experience, you can go back and get certification in first assisting,” she said. “A lot of it is on-the-job training, but there is a little bit more education that goes into that. That certification states that you have more experience. You are actually assisting the surgeon with suture tying, closing the skin, providing wound care and other things.”

Some first-assist certified surgical technologists work privately in a doctor’s office, where they assist in the office and in surgery, McMahan said.

McMahan said some surgical technologists move completely out of the surgery ward.

“Some will go back and get a bachelor’s degree and work as sales reps working with hospitals and surgery centers selling medical equipment and supplies,” she said. “The degree and experience also is a great precursor for anyone who might want to go back and enter a physician assistant program. There are a lot of ways to advance your skills.”

To learn more about Walters State’s Associate of Applied Science Degree in Surgical Technology, visit the Division of Health Programs at

In the photo: Students in the surgical technology program work with a manikin in the operating room lab at Walters State’s Sevier County campus. The program is co-sponsored by Walters State and Roane State Community Colleges through the Smoky Mountain Health Sciences Consortium.