Jennifer Lloyd was thinking about retiring to stay at home and enjoy her three dogs when a phone call from Trine University changed her plan.
Lloyd, a surgical technologist, said the call was an invitation to talk about the expansion of Trine's Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences to include an associate degree program in surgical technology.
“They didn't have any undergraduate medical programs and found there was a need for educated surgical technologists,” Lloyd said.
The program will be housed at 1819 Carew St. in a former eye surgery center. It will share the building with two graduate programs – a master's in physician assistant studies and a doctorate in physical therapy – already at that location.
Lloyd said the only existing program in surgical technology in the area is at the University of Saint Francis. She added that the demand for surgical technologists is greater than the current supply.
“The Trine name is very respected in the community,” Lloyd said.
So when the school offered her the position of department chair for the new program, she readily accepted.
Lloyd studied for her associate degree in surgical technology at the former Lutheran College of Health Professions and the University of Saint Francis. She went on to Siena Heights University in Michigan for a bachelor's degree, and in 2007 became a certified surgical first assistant, the highest level of surgical technology practice.
The new Trine program is accepting 24 students to begin the 17-month program in August and complete their associate degrees in December 2020. Lloyd said the program runs for four consecutive semesters through summer 2020.
Surgical technologists are involved in preoperative and postoperative management of surgeries, along with being actively involved in the technological aspects of surgery, such as passing instruments to the surgeon, preparing and handling medications, predicting the items necessary for a particular surgery and applying dressings.
“Our students will begin learning these skills their first semester,” Lloyd said.
Construction is nearly complete on a fully outfitted surgery suite at the Fort Wayne location.
The learning environment ranges from the surgery locker room to post-surgery cleanup area.
“That way our students will know when they arrive at a hospital exactly what they need to do for each step of the process,” she said.
Video will be taken of practice procedures to assist in learning proper techniques, enabling instructors to help students improve as they advance.
Students will also have clinical experiences at local hospitals including Parkview and Lutheran in Fort Wayne, The Orthopedic Hospital, Cameron Memorial Community Hospital in Angola, DeKalb Memorial Hospital in Auburn, and the Parkview hospitals in outlying areas such as Noble, LaGrange, and Whitley counties, Lloyd said.
“Surgical technology is a huge growing field,” Lloyd said.
Average salaries are about $47,000 a year, she said, and there are also opportunities for supplemental pay by taking on-call and overtime shifts.
“What that means for students who might need to take a loan is that they earn more in one year than they'll pay for their education.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the surgical technology field is projected to grow 12% between now and 2026. This is faster growth than the average for all occupations.
Classes in the Trine program are scheduled to accommodate students who are already working in the medical field or related areas. Clinical experiences take place in the morning, and classes are over by 3 p.m.
Online classes are also available.
“I highly encourage students to take those so they can work on them in the evenings and on weekends,” Lloyd said.