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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Surgical Technician got to career success one step at a time

November 10, 2020

Surgical Technician got to career success one step at a time headerMyra Ruiz felt a little like the storybook’s Goldilocks when she first got into the medical field. Right out of high school she had trained for and worked in medical billing and coding. She did that for about a minute before she realized this was not for her. Porridge too hot. She was a receptionist for a health care facility for a year. Not enough money. She had to supplement her income with a housecleaning business. Porridge too cold.

Thirteen years later she knew she was going to have to make a more serious commitment to the career she envisioned. “I made a firm decision to get back into the medical field,” says Myra. She earned an Associate’s degree while taking prerequisite classes for medical careers. Now she was ready to narrow her focus. She settled on becoming a Surgical Technician. Assisting physicians in the operating room sounded exciting and challenging.

The first Surgical Technology program Myra found had a long waiting list, so when she landed on SJVC’s website and read so many positive student and graduate testimonials, she took a step in a new direction. “I had a family member who graduated from SJVC’s Pharmacy Technology program in Fresno and was working, so I had a good idea that it was a very good school.”

Once she met with an Admissions Advisor, things lined up immediately. “Many of my credits would transfer over, so I didn’t have to retake math, English, anatomy, microbiology and other subjects,” says Myra. “I would only have to go for a little over a year, I could start class at 11:00 AM and I wouldn’t have to be there all day.”

The path toward her ideal career was certain, but not clear of obstacles. Myra would need to keep cleaning houses at least 20-hours each week, while she attended classes, studied, and managed her responsibilities as wife and mother. She would need the full support of her husband, Gustavo, and their 12-year old son, Romeo to make it work.

“Gustavo would help around the house, help Romeo with his homework, make dinner once in a while or bring home take-out,” she says. “I would be so tired sometimes, so overwhelmed, but it was just in my thoughts and I would never voice it. My husband was very encouraging and would say ‘It’s only a few more months and you’ll be done.’”

The balance was difficult, but the rewards were there every day. “I really loved the program, especially because of the instructors,” says Myra. “Mr. Martin had a lot of experience and relayed information from his own personal experience and would give examples of how he performed these things in his own work role. He would use simple terms that made more sense.”

Myra had to get all she could out of every class. “I would take full advantage of whatever I had in class because after school I had no time for study groups.” Her routine of school, homework, study, house cleaning business and family responsibilities left little for anything extra.

She would take comfort in Mr. Martin’s words of advice. “He would tell us, ‘Anybody who didn’t believe in your or who thought you are not capable of doing good in your life, prove them wrong. You can do this.’”

At some point the pressure of all she had to learn became secondary to the surprise she felt at finding something she loved to do. “Actually setting up a surgery and knowing what you needed in that surgery, wow; that’s a big responsibility. It is very interesting, and I started loving it because of the challenge and responsibility.” Myra earned a 3.0 GPA and the confidence in a perfect match with this profession.

Myra went to work for Riverside University Health Systems soon after graduating from the Surgical Technology program in August 2019. She is in her element.

“Once you’re in the field and actually working, it all makes sense,” she says. “Some things you do often and some things you almost never do. I don’t think I will ever know everything, and that’s what makes me enjoy it.”

She remembers her very first time as a Surgical Technician in an operating room. She would be assisting the surgeon performing a hernia repair. “It was my first surgery with a real patient, and I knew what instruments the surgeon was going to need and I knew the names of what I was giving to him. I was prepared. And, I was like, wow, I took the right career!”

Myra is now even more practiced at setting up the operating room and instruments for surgeries that differ depending on what procedures will be performed. Each surgeon has his or her own way of wanting the environment prepared and ordered. Surgical Technicians will adapt and learn those preferences. “It motivates me to know what their differences are so that things will go more smoothly.”

It is also the responsibility of a Surgical Technician to make certain that the surgical instrumentation and participants are sterile. “Once I am gowned and considered sterile, I gown the surgeons. I have to protect the sterile environment.”

The kinds of surgeries Myra prepares the operating room for are also very different depending on whether she is working a day or night shift. Daytime surgeries tend to be scheduled and non-emergencies. Night surgeries are mostly unscheduled and can accelerate the pace and preparation dramatically.

“Night surgeries are usually emergencies,” says Myra. “They are car accidents, people coming in with gunshot wounds, elderly people falling, young people in motorcycle accidents – always head injuries. We have to be very quick to set up the operating room for these traumas.”

During the height of the coronavirus hospital and surgery protocols were enhanced. “The hospital was prepared for it and we had everything we needed in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Coming home I left my shoes outside and phone in the garage to take precautions. I still do. Luckily, I haven’t gotten sick and my family hasn’t gotten sick.”

Myra feels fortunate that during this first year in her new career, she has not witnessed a loss of life. “I’m very glad that everybody that we’ve treated has recovered.”

Myra is digging in deeper into this career field. “Nursing is something that interests me, maybe a Registered Nurse in an operating room. But not until I’ve been in my field for a while.”

Her career vision has driven Myra to this exact place of success, and she would pass what she has learned on this journey to others who hesitate, who doubt themselves. “Dismiss your thoughts of giving up. Replace it with seeing yourself in that position you want, and know you’ll be great at it. Visualize yourself doing it. That’s what I did.”

Goldilocks knew what she was talking about. Porridge just right.

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