Chris Gray, Ph.D. l Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

From the time I first applied to join the EC3PA family, I’ve made no secret of the value that I place on workforce partnerships as being absolutely critical to the community college mission. I talked about one such partnership in my post about Lincoln Electric a few weeks ago. Today, I’m excited to share the forthcoming launch of another. The EC3PA Board of Trustees just approved this latest degree program, slated to launch in a few weeks during the Fall 2022 semester, last night. As always, our degree programs are contemplated and chosen based upon community and student need, so we set about getting this program together to satisfy both considerations without delay.

The latest addition to the EC3PA catalog of courses will be a Surgical Technology Associate of Applied Science Degree. Through this partnership with UPMC School of Surgical Technology, EC3PA’s Surgical Technology Program will prepare students to perform various activities to assist doctors during surgery, including sterilizing and setting up equipment, positioning patients for procedures, handing instruments to doctors during surgery, and preparing the operating room for patients.

Surgical technologists are absolutely essential members of the surgical team. They assist in the sterilization and preparation of the operating rooms for each procedure in addition to organizing and maintaining the surgical supplies, the medical equipment, and the operating theater throughout the duration of the procedure. Surgical techs might also be asked to assist in moving patients to and from the operating room, helping to position patients on the operating table, monitoring patient vital signs, and checking patient medical charts. During the course of surgery, surgical technologists provide sterile equipment and actively anticipate the needs of the surgeon through observing and understanding the progression of the surgical procedure. They are responsible for the care of surgical instrumentation and equipment before, during, and at the completion of surgical cases.

As has become common knowledge in our modern world, we continue to face a national healthcare shortage – one that started even before the pandemic exacerbated the problem – and Erie County is certainly not immune. Our local operating suites have sat dark due to this shortage of Surgery Techs. UPMC has had to bring shift workers from their other hospitals to keep up with the surgery needs here in Erie. Our hope is that we can help to offset this shortage by providing qualified professionals in the areas that have the greatest need. This curricular offering allows us to partner with UPMC such that we at EC3PA provide the general education courses while UPMC offers the medical courses. Our students will learn at UPMC facilities and be taught by UPMC faculty. Win-win!

Upon completion of the Surgical Tech program, EC3PA graduates leave school prepared for entry-level work at one of the UPMC facilities in Erie County; they are likewise prepared to work in other UPMC locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York; finally, they could opt to employ their education and skills internationally in Italy and/or Ireland. We are doing our very best to change the world one student and one program at a time. What a fantastic example of workforce partnership in action, and what an amazing opportunity for our students!