OCC Program Enjoys Success Starting Medical Careers

Dec 3, 2013

Students in Surgical Technician Program get hands-on training that helped all members of the last class pass national certification.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  Onondaga Community College’s Surgical Technician Program is receiving a lot of attention after recent graduates earned high scores on the national certification exam. The 10 month program at OCC is a crash-course in physiology and surgical procedure, where students learn the skills needed to assist surgeons and nurses during surgeries. 

Current student Emily Kishtok says there’s a large amount of material packed into each semester.

“There’s a huge book of instruments.  There’s a core group of instruments that we learn that are for a lot of case but there’s also a lot of specialty instruments.  So there’s a lot and it’s going to take a while to learn all of theme for each procedure.” 

Some of the instruments and devices students need to learn about. Others, such as those use in laparoscopy, are even more specialized.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  The Surgical Tech program is the only one of its kind in Central New York. While many graduates work at local hospitals, the school says there is demand for certified techs in cities such as Rochester and Ithaca as well. MaryPat Annabel chairs the 10-month program, which provides practical experience to students.

"They spend a lot of time in the lab, gowning and gloving themselves, gowning and gloving each other.  They’re handling the instruments,.  They’re setting up tables. And that’s just in the first three months.  Then they start clinical, and then they’re on clinical two days a week for 15 weeks.”  

Annable says students often receive jobs from their work placements during the program.

“As I tell the students, you can make clinical sites want to hire you and make them not want to hire you.  They get to try you out; you get to try them out. I tell the students, ask questions.  Find out what it’s like to work here;  Find out what call’s like.” 

Recent graduates have found work at Crouse and University hospitals, and Annabel also said in 20 years teaching at OCC the small program has had strong employment among graduates.


OCC’s Surgical Tech program was the only one in New York State where every student passed the certification test. The 11 students averaged 141 out of 175 questions correct, where passing was 119. This comes as no surprise to current student Emily Kishtok who looks forward to being employed as a surgical technician.

Student Emily Kishtok (left) is finishing her first semester of Surgical Tech instruction with program Chair MaryPat Annable.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  “It’s very exciting.  Learning the fundamentals was not overwhelming but tough to get through.  But once you learn it, you know it.  Now it’s applying it so that’s what I’m excited for.  I’m excited to eventually start to apply those.” 

The competitive program takes 20 people each year.