Glenda Lancaster will be the first to tell you she wasn’t a traditional college student.
“I was a displaced woman, recently divorced, and in my 40s,” she said. “I had a high school diploma and had never worked outside the home.”
After a few years of cleaning houses, housesitting and working in a dental office, Lancaster knew she needed more, so she began taking classes at Tyler Junior College.
“I got my prerequisites while I worked full time,” she said. “I got tired and thought about giving up; but with a lot of prayer and encouragement from my friends, I kept going.”
Lancaster was drawn to the TJC Surgical Technology program because, she said, “It’s a very specific, detailed job that also requires having a heart for helping people. You are responsible for making sure the surgical field – the operating table, the instruments, the materials, everything – is sterile and safe for the patient at all times.”
She graduated from TJC in May 2015. One month later, she went to work in labor and delivery at East Texas Medical Center.
During surgical procedures, she said, her job is to keep her eyes on everything, every movement, to make sure nothing is out of place or is touched in a way that will make it unsafe for the patient.
“TJC prepared me to do that, through the loving instruction of two brilliant women, (TJC professors) Sherry Seaton and Brenda Korich,” she said. “They didn’t slack on anything. They were tough at times, but they were so supportive in how they prepared us.
“They instilled a desire not just to learn the skills but to master them.”
TJC surgical technology graduates seem to be mastering their skills in high numbers, as evidenced by their performance on the Surgical Technology National Technology Certification Exam, which they are required to take following graduation.
TJC’s pass rates have consistently been above the national average and the margin is widening each year.
A look at TJC graduates’ pass rates compared with the national average over the last three years:
- 2013: TJC, 81 percent; national average, 75.5 percent
- 2014: TJC, 91.67 percent; national average, 74.4 percent
- 2015: TJC, 92.86 percent; national average, 75.5 percent
Since the TJC Surgical Technology Program was established August 1999, a total of 165 students have passed through the program.
The TJC program has limited enrollment, accepts only 18-20 applicants each year and offers two educational options: a Certificate of Proficiency or an Associate of Applied Science degree. Applicants must complete certain prerequisite courses and take an aptitude test before applying to the program.
TJC’s pass rate now ranks among top-performing schools.
“It is a requirement of employment that you must be certified as a surgical technologist within six months of your hiring date, and our job placement rate has been very good over the years,” said Sherry Seaton, director of the TJC surgical technology program.
“My experience at TJC changed everything. Listen, I started at zero. Now, I have a great job and I don’t have to worry as much about money. And with that security and confidence, my shoulders are a little straighter and I walk with a lot more bounce than I did before. That means everything.” - Glenda Lancaster
“Our job placement rate is 80 percent. Employers of surgical technologists in the East Texas area and surrounding Metroplex areas seek out our program graduates because of what they have heard about the program.”
Seaton said satisfaction surveys are sent to all employers of TJC graduates and results have been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have a 95-percent satisfaction rate from employers, and we have a 100-percent satisfaction rate from our program graduates,” she said.
Lancaster said, “I graduated a year ago, and even today I can still hear them in my head. As I step up to an operating table, they’re telling me what to do, what to watch for, how to have what they call a ‘surgical conscience,’ and not to let up on any of it.
“My experience at TJC changed everything. Listen, I started at zero. Now, I have a great job and I don’t have to worry as much about money. And with that security and confidence, my shoulders are a little straighter and I walk with a lot more bounce than I did before. That means everything.”
For more on the TJC surgical technology program, go to www.tjc.edu/surgicaltech.