CHEYENNE, Wyoming – A new agreement between Laramie County Community College and Campbell County Health will give up to two surgical technology students each year the opportunity to have some education costs covered and guaranteeing work before graduation, and after graduation when certification is obtained.
Campbell County Health will provide several benefits for those who enter the program, and in return the participating students will work as surgical technologists in Gillette for three years after graduation. Tuition, fees and books will be paid for by Campbell County Health, and the students will be given jobs at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette during the course of their education, working 16-30 hours a week while being paid for 40 hours.
There is a shortage of surgical technologists across the region, said Tracy Perko, LCCC Surgical Technology Program director. The agreement allows students in Gillette the opportunity to obtain a degree and have a job waiting for them after graduation in their hometown while also addressing the shortage.
“The students are the biggest winners and get the most out of the situation,” Perko said. “Not only do they get college paid for, but they also have a guaranteed job upon receiving their degree. For a student I can see why this would be very attractive.”
Making the investment in students allows them to overcome barriers that might overwise be in the way of pursuing an education, said Norberto Orellana, Campbell County Health spokesperson.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have the passion, but for one reason or another circumstantially are just not able to get involved in health care,” he said. “This partnership is how we can really break down barriers and enable them to become providers.”
Campbell County Health is proud to bring the unique opportunity to the community, said Sara Hackman, Campbell County Health Surgical Services clinical care supervisor.
“Students will build relationships and spend quality time with the surgical team while preparing to start their career,” she said. “They will have an ample head start compared to the average graduate.”
Students based in Gillette will attend class lectures via Microsoft Teams and have a volunteer in the Gillette to help them practice lab skills each week. Monthly trips to Cheyenne will allow for competency testing on previously-learned skills, as well as providing opportunities to learn new lab skills.
A surgical technology screening committee will determine whether students are qualified to enter the program. The agreement between Campbell County Health and LCCC covers an initial term of seven years. Perko said it’s her hope that the program will continue after the initial seven-year agreement.
Surgical technologists play an integral role in health care by assisting in surgical operations, typically working in hospitals or outpatient surgery centers.
“We’re the surgeon’s extra set of hands,” Perko said.
LCCC offers an intensive 11-month surgery core program that combines classroom lectures and discussions, laboratory demonstrations with hands-on practice and supervised clinical experiences in patient care settings. The program admits one class of students each fall. It is the only surgical technology program in Wyoming.
“It’s nice that we’re able to provide remote learning, as we are the only program in the state, and we’re able to reach up all the way into the upper north part of Wyoming,” Perko said.
LCCC saw a 100% job placement rate for surgical technology graduates in the class of 2019, and a 92% five-year rate between 2015 and 2019.