Do you remember hearing about program advisory committees (PACs) when you attended school? They are groups comprised of field practitioners, educators, administrators, employee partners, and even alumni who gather to evaluate and discuss ways to make our programs like Surgical Technology stronger, more competitive and more in-line with the needs of each respective industry.
There's an element of reflection, as well as projection. It's their feedback that is often the catalyst for such changes.
Changes in Surgical Technology Program
One program that has undergone a good deal of change is our surgical technology training program. Last fall, we launched an associate degree option for the program that had, up until then, been offered as a diploma by many of our campuses.
We took a proactive approach to The Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Professionals (CAAHEP) mandate for institutions to begin offering a minimum credential of an Associate degree within the next five years.
Many in the industry believe that the changeover to an associate degree program will make applicants more competitive in the market for clinical rotations and surgical technologist positions.
And as we consider career longevity, the feedback from our PAC members is that an associate degree might allow those involved in the Surgical Technology field to explore career opportunities outside the operating room - whether that be in another area of health care or, coupled with experience, a management role.
Surgical Technology Degree Completion Program
But we didn't just make a path for future students. We know we have many alumni who could also benefit from pursuing an associate degree. So, we introduced an online Surgical Technology completion program for certified surgical techs.
The program is offered 100 percent online so those actively working in the field can complete the coursework outside a traditional classroom setting during a time most convenient for them.
"We had an overwhelming response from student inquiries ... (of the students we have) all but two are alumni of Concorde," said Nikki Fox, Dean of Online Operations. "...this shows the quality of our programs and that our students who graduate from Concorde understand their success is our number one priority. They know they will have support, they will be presented with a competitive education, and they already know our guidelines and expectations so it's comfortable for them.
"Like anything, (the 100 percent online environment) is an adjustment. Our online academic team is dedicated to supporting students right out of the gate. We have a couple of different open chat sessions, where new students can just pop-in and ask questions or seek guidance. We provide new students with training courses, a lot of email communication and multiple check-ins for the first two weeks."
Once students make it over the two-week hump, they seem to settle into a routine, which is critical for online success. It also helps that we have amazing online faculty members who provide timely responses/support (within 24 hours even on weekends).
"Most of our online faculty have been with Concorde for at least three years (some have been with us for seven years), so they are very familiar with our processes and our student population. It's definitely a sacrifice for students, but degrees were not meant to come easily!"