Helping people become the new OC program director
As a person with a military and medical background, Ben White enjoys leading and seeing people have that light of understanding in their eyes.
White went to Concorde Career College and went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in General Studies from Odessa College. Ultimately, he wants to get a master’s degree, but for now he is devoting himself to his job as the CST Program Director of the Surgical Technology Program at Odessa College. CST stands for Certified Surgical Technologist.
Prior to that, he was a medic in the US Army and made two tours of Iraq. He joined him at the age of 18 in 2006 with the desire to get out of his home, to be independent and to do his part.
White scored high enough on the Armed Services Occupational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, test to get the job he wanted. He said he had always been interested in the medical field, his mother being a nurse and his sister a nurse practitioner.
âI’ve always enjoyed helping people and being on the good side of the world,â he said.
In Iraq, he ran a clinic and set up field clinics where they worked with Iraqi nationals.
âWe would help treat the local people there. A lot of times they don’t have access to that health care and it was really eye-opening to see these things and it’s aâ¦ real learning environment, âWhite said.
He was in the military for four years and was discharged as a promoted specialist. This meant he was ready to be promoted to sergeant, but he decided to start his next chapter.
Students earn a two-year associate’s degree. They all take their prerequisites in the first year and the second year is only in surgical technology.
It was a certificate, he said.
âSurgical technology is an evolving field where we install and support surgeons in their operations. We do just about all the specialties that exist. We are responsible for maintaining the sterility of it and for setting up the surgery itself so that the surgeons can perform it, âWhite said.
The profession was once called perioperative nurses. As the field grew it became more specialized and it took more training to do it, so the CST work was expanded. Now, most of the time, nurses play the role of circulator.
âA lot of people have turned to the role of CST, mainly because that’s what we do. We are trained. We enter, we know our instruments. We learn about it, specifically anatomy and physiology, the types of surgeries and we specialize, so it’s more our field where nursing, you take such a broad aspect of medicine and specialize more late in your field. Normally there will be what you call CNORs, certified operative nurses, and that’s where they’re going to specialize and they can rub (in), âWhite said.
OC brought back its Surgical Technology program in 2015, but it was accredited in 2017. White said Texas now requires you to graduate from an accredited program.
âAnd then you’re going to pass your CST and you’re supposed to be licensed or certified to work,â White said.
Students are nationally tested, so they are nationally certified and can work in any of the 50 United States without having to retake the test.
White said you need to update specific state laws. âWe have a standardized skill set that we have mastered so well that you can move from state to state and you’re good to go. They have travel and tech jobs everywhere. I get called all the time, but I love being here, âhe said.
There are nine on the program right now. They are able to follow 10 and lead two cohorts per year with two instructors.
The number of students is based in part on the number of clinical places available in the region and how many they think they can accommodate through their accreditation body.
They ask students to do peer reviews because they keep the case sterile in the operating room, so they need to be able to identify when someone is contaminating something or making a mistake âand to be able to call it â.
âIt’s part of the curriculum where we look and do what we do with each other,â White said.
He added that they are a tight-knit group that looks out for each other.
âIt’s not one of those programs where we’re going to overload students just to get more and be successful. We want to be able to teach and that successful employees enter the workforce. With this program, we take the aspects of surgical technology, professionalism. We take these young adults and shape them to be professionals in the workplace, so once they’ve walked through the door of their new hospital or surgical center where they work, they’re ready to go. And ideally, once people learn that the technology is coming from Odessa College, they’ll just hire it there, âWhite said.
He added that there is a great demand for surgical technologists.
âI think they see the field growing 20 to 25 percent a year just because there are more people in need of surgery and they’re expanding it,â White said.
He added that Midland Memorial hired everyone from a class last year. People don’t necessarily know that the field of surgical technologists exists.
âIt’s a great area to work in,â he said.
White said he was asked to try teaching and precept.
He had experience of being in the military and training soldiers, in addition to working at the Odessa Regional Medical Center and Midland Memorial Hospital. He was the senior surgical technologist at ORMC where he worked in labor and delivery.
When asked if he wanted to return to work in hospitals, White said he liked what he was doing now.
âI love Odessa College. I like the environment; the people. It is very welcoming. They are a great support to really give the students their education and it makes it easier for me to do my job with all the support. It’s something you don’t get everywhere. I’m not sure I want to let that go, âWhite said.
Students use all types of advanced technology to simulate what it is like to perform procedures and they also handle and sterilize instruments to prepare to enter an operating room.
ââ¦ This cohort is advancing in just about every program across the country because we have better technology. We have a lab simulator where they can actually see what it’s like to run a camera in a laparotic simulation before moving on to the clinical side, so their learning curve is drastically reduced and they’re going to be able to gain that experience of first hand . Most of the hospitals I’ve spoken with are enthusiastic (and) encouraged about this, and they are working with the doctors to let them do this stuff more and sooner so that they can sort out their cases and really have this. impact as a student rather than waiting for them to come out, âWhite said.
When he graduated in 2013, they had nothing like OC equipment and facilities.
ââ¦ We are really bridging the gap between the community and the doctors. With that ability, with the technology that we have here, we’re able toâ¦ branch out into other fields and PDAs and let themâ¦ train on thatâ¦ âWhite said.
Louis Madrid and Edith Heredia are both students of the program.
Madrid’s love for anatomy attracted him. He said it brought him the joy and satisfaction of helping others.
Heredia started out as a certified nursing assistant.
âI think all of these roles are important, butâ¦ I wanted to do more. I had heard about the program through my email at school and it seemed really interesting to me to be able to help others, âHeredia added.
Madrid and Heredia said the schedule was tough and there was a lot of time management involved.
âOne of the things we preach is time management,â White said. “We’re lucky these two always come over in their spare time, asking questions.” We’ll open the lab and work with them. That way, they can get that extra practice if they want to.
Heredia said they appreciated that White could stay up late to help them learn.
Their clinics start at the end of October.
Madrid said they were nervous about starting them but it’s nothing they can’t face.
âIt’s exciting to finally be able to get into the hospital; something you were waiting for. I have been waiting for four years. It’s been a long journey, âsaid Madrid.
He added that he wanted to be a nurse, but wanted to be more involved and see real surgeries.
âAnd I found out about the program and decided that I needed a few more prerequisites for this program, and I decided to go ahead and apply. I found it to be very competitive. There are only 10 places, âsaid Madrid.
Heredia said they need to maintain their grades in anatomy and physiology.
âWhen we do our selection process, we base it on their grades and interview, see what their interests are, their ability to focus on it, because it’s something that takes a lot of time and effort. It is not something that you can just go through while skating. â¦ âWhite said.
He added that they go through their medical terminology and break down the words.
âI am very fortunate to have a good cohort,â White said.