Ensuring Surgical Technology students make a smooth transition from classroom to operatories is essential to career success
Dwight Sneed joined the Surgical Technology program faculty on the Rancho Cordova campus just 8-months ago, but his priorities were immediately in full alignment with the team. He understood the importance of students taking what they learn in the classroom to high performance in a medical surgery environment.
“What I enjoy most is seeing the moment when students understand the concepts and relate what I’ve taught in the classroom by demonstrating it in the lab,” says Dwight. And he knows there are always curve balls that take a situation beyond book-learned circumstances. “No surgery is the same and there are many types of complications that keep you on your toes.”
Dwight wants to prepare his students for as many scenarios as possible. During his years as a Surgical Technician for a large hospital, he witnessed the weaknesses created by book-smart Surgical Technicians who were not as prepared with skilled surgical techniques, hands-on experience and patient care as he would like. “I felt that their skill set could have been stronger, so I did some research to figure out how I could help them be better.”
What he found was that he would have to intervene at an earlier stage of their education and training. “I had to be involved before they got to the employment level, if I was going to boost them to be better prepared,” says Dwight.
At that time SJVC was about to introduce the Surgical Technology program on the Rancho Cordova campus and Dwight connected with the ST Program Director. She invited him to take a look at the program and perhaps consider an instructor position. Although he contributed resources and ideas for the new program’s look and flow, Dwight was pursuing his own higher education in a Registered Nursing Bachelor’s program and could not “add another chapter” to his full schedule.
About a year later Dwight was able to take his required nursing classes online and he applied for the faculty position he currently holds.
Now he would get to influence all those lives headed toward success in a field he loved, understood and mastered. “I had not taught before and it was a little bit nerve-wracking in the beginning,” says Dwight.
At twenty-six, Dwight wasn’t much older than many of his students and younger than more than a few. “Students were kind of sizing me up to see my knowledge of surgical technology, as well as my experiences at the hospital,” he admits. Dwight was confident that he could give them the tools they would need to succeed.
Dwight quickly realized that students take in and learn information differently. “Some like the book-work part of delivering information, others like the story of how the information is put into practice,” he says. “I had to get a sense of how each student best absorbs information and try to deliver it in the most effective way.”
Now it is second nature for him to balance textbook information with first-person experiences in a surgical environment, as he interjects patient care education. “I’m a little laid back in the classroom, but more hands-on when we get into the lab,” says Dwight. “Each student watches me perform the procedures then gets to practice on their own with my guidance.”
Dwight’s desired student outcome is clear. “Always my goal as an instructor is to make sure that they are going to handle any situation that is presented to them; to make sure they have the resources to handle that situation.”
“Good teachers have the ability to grab students’ attention and convey complex information,” says Amy Bianco, Campus Dean. “I have observed Mr. Sneed’s ability to convey complicated information effectively by stripping it down and focusing on key components to get students involved and talking. He uses a plethora of props, analogies and humor to explain material in a variety of ways that help students learn and succeed.”
Dwight also brings a lot of heart to his brand of instruction. “I’m still surprised at what students have to do, the sacrifices they’ve made to be here in this program. In one class about 50% of the students had to either quit their jobs or did not take a job to be able to fully devote themselves to this program.”
It is his top priority to do all he can to give his students the education and experience they came for.
The medical field demands precision. “Different parameters have to be met and certain sequences have to be performed to maintain the best care for your patients,” says Dwight. “Movements are very deliberate, and students have to learn mechanical, as well as mental coordination. It’s like a ballet or sorts, a surgical dance.”
Preparing patients for surgery requires strong professional, emotional and sometimes physical support from the Surgical Technician. “Positioning a patient for surgery can require some contortion,” says Dwight, who is willing to demonstrate when some positioning defies imagination. “I have had to physically get into awkward positions so students could see how that patient should look in preparation for that procedure. As long as they could then understand how it was, I didn’t care how I looked.”
Dwight had a good and generous teacher as he reached for his own education and career goals. “My grandma, Evelyn, always pushed me to not stop or give up on whatever I’m doing,” he says. “She was always a huge part of my education.” As a young widow with two small children, Evelyn went back to school and became a professional in her field. “She paid for private education for me my entire life.”
That same zest for education is something Dwight carries for his students. “It gives me great satisfaction to get students from where they start out to where they finish. I want to accurately convey the knowledge they need to be able to perform this job; I don’t want to leave anything out.”
His formula seems to feed tremendous student success. It takes its full measure at graduation. “There is a lot of excitement, seeing that final step after being in the program so long,” says Dwight. “Introducing us (faculty) to their families and hearing their families’ comments to them.”
And there are unexpected moments. The first time Dwight heard, “I don’t think I would have made it without you,” was a powerful personal and professional experience. “I wasn’t expecting such a high compliment. It’s always a really good feeling to hear their gratitude.”
Undoubtedly, there will be many more lessons, body contortions, surgical procedures…and accomplished Surgical Technology graduates in the years ahead.
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