Training Tomorrow’s Surgical Technicians at ECC

June 20, 2024 | Campus News ECC Rolla

Layla Watson enrolled in East Central College’s Surgical Technology program in Rolla because she always wanted to be part of an operating room team.

“I’ve always been intrigued by surgery,” she said. “The surgical tech classes at ECC explore all the different types of surgeries in depth, and they have so much class participation.”

Watson, 21, of Waynesville, is conducting clinicals at Lake Regional Hospital, where she plans to remain and begin a career as a certified surgical technician. From there, she plans to continue her education and eventually return to a surg tech classroom to teach future members of operating room teams.

Watson and her classmates in ECC’s Surgical Technology program are poised to enter the workforce with many occupational options. Jennifer Wall, Surgical Technology Program Director, said there are numerous openings in the field, giving surg tech graduates various job opportunities.

“Most of our hospitals have more openings than any one program could fill in the next five years,” Wall said, adding, “With the nationwide shortage, our program is an integral part of the community.”

Additionally, Wall said there are many areas in health care that surgical technicians can pursue, including hospital surgery units, outpatient surgery centers, labor and delivery, dentists or oral surgeons, veterinary offices, or traveling companies. Some graduates, like Watson, will pursue an advanced degree.

“Surgical technologists can obtain a position that allows for an accommodating schedule that makes further education possible,” Wall commented.

Surge Tech at ECC

Surgical Technology is a “1 plus 1” degree program that requires one year of general education, followed by three semesters of surgical technology courses and clinicals. In the program, students learn concepts of aseptic technique, instrumentation, surgical procedures, and patient care. They are trained to anticipate the surgeon’s needs and assist throughout the procedure, making them a vital member of the operating room team.

Clinical sites ECC students attend extend across the state, including hospitals and surgery centers in Jefferson City, Columbia, Osage Beach, Springfield, Lebanon, Rolla, Sullivan, Washington, Festus, Farmington, and St. Louis.

The Surgical Technology program, under ECC since Fall 2022, is taught at the Rolla Technical Center under the guidance of two full-time certified instructors. Graduates earn an Associate of Applied Science degree and are eligible to take the national licensure exam by the NBSTSA.

Wall said she’s proud of the program’s perfect pass rate on the certification exam last year and 100 percent job placement over the past decade.

“Since this certification is national, our students can go anywhere in the United States and find employment,” she added. “Our graduates typically have many offers before graduation.”

Procedural drop-in that students use when training with the positioning and procedure manikin

State-of-the-Art Training

The Surgical Technology program recently received a new Positioning and Procedure Manikin to simulate the use of surgical tools in a lifelike model. The manikin’s realistic surface closely resembles the layers of human skin and is reinforced for suturing, allowing students to train with scalpels and other tools.

The manikin features an adhesive mixture within the skin that closes a “wound” and allows for additional training for many years to come. Additionally, the program received a flat abdominal skin topper, a procedural drop-in, and an insufflated skin topper to simulate laparoscopy.

Watson was the first Surg Tech student to use the new manikin.

The manikin’s realistic surface closely resembles the layers of human skin and is reinforced for suturing, allowing students to train with scalpels and other tools.

“It gives us a real sense of human anatomy during surgery and the layers of skin when opening and closing,” she said. “The laparoscopic belly is pretty accurate too, which is good because a lot of belly cases in real-world scenarios are done laparoscopically.”

Watson noted that the equipment provides additional functions that previous equipment could not.

“We’ll be able to actually move the manikin’s extremities for draping techniques,” she added. “Overall, it’ll give a better idea of patient handling in the operating room and the steps during procedures.”

The manikin was purchased through a Vocational Enhancement Grant.

‘Truly Flourishing’

Watson will be the first on her mother’s side of the family to graduate college — an accomplishment she and her family are proud of.

“Maintaining the work/life balance while still trying to reach my goals has been a challenge,” she noted. “It is worth it though.

“I love everything that I have been taught and I am continuing to learn. My motivation within the program is to better myself and to go the extra mile,” Watson added. “I feel as though I am becoming the person I am meant to be — I am truly flourishing in this program.”

For more information on the Surgical Technology program, visit or contact Nancy Mitchell, Dean of Health Science, at or 636-584-6619.