Blinn student pursues lifelong passion through the Surgical Technology Program

National Surgical Technologists Week celebrates the unsung advocates of the operating room

September 20, 2019

Kaytie CrippsFort Worth native Kaytie Cripps was always destined for scrubs. As a child, she preferred diagnosing her toys’ ailments with a plastic stethoscope to playing house. Her fascination with science coupled with a genuine desire to help people only intensified as Cripps explored her career options after high school and a relocation to the Bryan-College Station area.

“I wanted to be in the medical field, but I didn’t know this position existed,” Cripps said. “I knew there were doctors and nurses, but when I learned more about surgical technology and that there was this separate person vital to making sure a procedure went smoothly, I said, ‘That’s it! That’s what I want to do! This is my missing puzzle piece!’”

Cripps found her match in the Blinn College District Surgical Technology Program. Surgical technologists are essential to surgical teams, assisting surgeons, anesthesiologists, and registered nurses in providing care to patients in the operating room. For Cripps, the significance of her profession has taken on a more personal tone due to her own experience with surgery. An emergency appendectomy in high school sent her to the operating room terrified and in pain, but she now realizes she had nothing to fear.

“This experience gave me a great sense of perspective and I can really sympathize with my patients,” Cripps said. “Knowing what I know now, I shouldn’t have been scared at all. There were all these people working to make sure I was taken care of and now I’m one of those people.”

This empathetic approach is the cornerstone of Blinn’s Surgical Technology Program, which recently relocated to the new Academic Complex at the RELLIS Campus. The new facility features state-of-the-art simulation labs and a communal environment that supports interaction and collaboration between Blinn’s health sciences programs. The move to RELLIS is another factor that seemed serendipitously to align Cripps with Blinn’s program.

“My father was actually part of the demolition crew that took down the old buildings when this was a military base,” Cripps said. “Seeing what it was and what RELLIS is now blows my mind. My dad tells everyone that I’m going to school here and that he played a part in its history.”

In addition to their classwork, Blinn surgical technology students undergo hands-on clinical experience at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center-College Station, CHI St. Joseph Hospital, College Station Medical Center, and The Physicians Centre Hospital and must complete more than 200 surgical cases across a variety of surgical specialties prior to graduation. Cripps cites this requirement as an element that attracted her attention and sets her up for success.

“We’re getting on-the-job training,” Cripps said. “From robotics-assisted surgery to a tendon transfer, I’ve gotten to see so much in such a short period of time. There’s no other job where I can go home and say, ‘I helped a guy open his hand again!’ It’s truly surreal.”

This internship-like training provides students a direct link to area hospitals and graduates have successfully obtained employment at many of the same facilities where they refined their skills. The program’s inventive classroom and clinical requirements also can support working professionals.

“I have to pay for everything myself and this program allowed me the flexibility to continue working while other careers in the medical field don’t,” Cripps said. “I knew when I completed my schooling, I wanted a secure job. Being able to start my career in just two years with the knowledge there are positions available is amazing. We’re definitely needed.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for surgical technologists is expected to increase 9% between 2018 and 2028, creating 9,700 new jobs during that span. Nation-wide, the median wage is $47,300 per year. Texas has the nation’s highest demand for surgical technologists, and, locally, the Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley projects a 30% growth in the Brazos Valley between 2014 and 2024.

Surgical technologists often are employed at hospitals but can work in any setting that conducts surgical procedures, including doctor’s offices, day surgery facilities, and dental offices. Blinn’s Surgical Technology Program also can serve as a springboard to other careers in the healthcare field. Cripps loves the dynamic nature of a hospital setting and hopes to keep working in this environment following her anticipated graduation in August 2020.

“Every procedure in the operating room is different and I know I’ll never get bored,” Cripps said. “This job is so rewarding because you’re there to fix a problem and a majority of the time it works and you’ve helped someone’s health and life get better.”

The Spring 2020 application cycle for Blinn’s Surgical Technology Program is open now and the deadline to apply is Nov. 16, 2019. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu/surgical-technology or contact Victoria Parnell at victoria.parnell@blinn.edu.

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