South Piedmont to Launch Surgical Technology Program in January; Applications Open Sept. 1

South Piedmont Community College will launch a Surgical Technology program in January to help fill critical needs at area hospitals and healthcare providers.

Applications for the program will be accepted beginning Sept. 1. (The spring application will open Sept. 19 for transfer students.)

“We’re very excited to begin offering this program and play an active part in creating a local pipeline for surgical technologists,” said Program Director Alli Roy. “Our clinical partners are clamoring for surgical technologists. They have positions they can’t currently fill. South Piedmont’s program is being created to address that problem in our community.”

Surgical technologists assist during surgical operations. This requires them to understand and monitor every operation that is performed in order to pass the surgeon the instruments he or she needs during the procedure.

“The surgical technologist is a critical member of the operating team,” Roy said. “You have to be able to anticipate the surgeon’s needs and keep the procedure moving forward. Every second counts when a patient is on the operating table. The surgical technologist has to know what the surgeon needs even before the surgeon does.”

Surgical technologists also assist in preparing the operating room and maintaining a sterile environment throughout each procedure.

Roy worked as a surgical technologist for several years prior to joining South Piedmont.

“It’s a very fulfilling career. Every day is different. Every patient is different. Every case is different,” she said. “With surgery, you’re going in and fixing something. You see that immediate difference in the patient. That’s a great feeling to be part of the team that performs a transplant, an open-heart surgery, or any other procedure that saves, prolongs, or improves a patient’s life immediately.”

South Piedmont’s program is designed to be completed in 17 months, which includes classroom instruction, simulated experiences in the College’s labs, and on-site clinical instruction at area hospitals and healthcare providers. Students will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology.

South Piedmont’s clinical partners hailed the creation of the program.

“Union County is experiencing a growing demand for skilled healthcare professionals, including surgical technologists, to meet the increasing healthcare needs of the population. By having a local program, the county can address its specific healthcare requirements and improve access to surgical services for residents. Furthermore, having a local program can help bridge the skills gap in the healthcare industry, attracting and retaining professionals in the region. Ultimately, establishing a partnership with South Piedmont will be key to supporting our local hospitals and healthcare facilities by providing them with well-trained professionals and fostering collaboration between academia and the healthcare sectors,” said Jennifer Sproles, nurse manager for surgical services at Atrium Health Union West.

Added Delanda Sexton, nurse manager for perioperative services at Atrium Health Union/Anson:

“I feel having a Surgical Technology program in our county is extremely beneficial for our hospital operating room, since our department actively hires qualified graduates. Since the OR has a call component, we require staff to be within 30-45 minutes of the hospital during their call timeframe. This is critical for our patients who need emergency surgeries. As we all know, most students choose a college within an easy distance from their homes, and this would most likely indicate these students would be within easy access to both Atrium Union and Union West. I am so excited about South Piedmont’s program, and I look forward to having students at to our facility for their clinical experience.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that opportunities will abound for surgical technologists wherever they choose to live. The BLS estimates the field will grow by 6 percent, or about 7,700 jobs, through 2031.

Learn more about South Piedmont’s Surgical Technology program

South Piedmont’s EMT Program Draws Pre-Med Students from Across the State

Photo of EMT students

South Piedmont offered two EMT classes this summer to meet student demand. Many of the students ultimately plan to attend medical school.

South Piedmont Community College offered two EMT classes this summer to meet demand not only of aspiring first-responders but pre-med students from universities across the state and beyond.

“We have great word of mouth,” said Sam Bishop, fire/rescue/EMS program director.

“The word is definitely out that our program is great preparation both for students planning to go into emergency medical services and those planning to continue in the medical field to become doctors or physician assistants.”

Last summer, South Piedmont offered one EMT Basic Certification class. The class consists of 240 hours of in-person and online instruction, as well as ride-along hours on ambulances. The class readies students for state and national certification.

“Last year, we had the one class, but we could have filled two, there was that much demand,” Sam Bishop said. “This year, we offered two classes, but could have filled three.”

He estimated 75 percent of the EMT students are university students who have returned to Anson and Union counties for summer break. Ultimately, those students want to become doctors or physician assistants; they complete EMT training to gain clinical experience that aligns with their future career plans.

“Becoming an EMT is something that will differentiate them when they apply for medical school,” Sam Bishop said. “Since I started at South Piedmont in 2022, we’ve had pre-med students from UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, the University of South Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Princeton, and a variety of smaller schools take our program.”

In addition to clinical experience, EMT students also earn college credit.

“Because we know that many of the students ultimately plan to go on to medical school, we expand on the instruction as much as possible to help them understand how what we’re doing will be relevant to them in the future,” said Chris Floto, lead EMS instructor.

“An example is patient assessments. Whether you want to be an EMT or a physician, you take the same steps when you assess a patient. We take the time to have that conversation, to explain that even when they become doctors, they’ll be using the same concepts.”

Taanvii Verma is a pre-med student at UNC Chapel Hill who came home to Waxhaw for the summer. Taking the EMT class has provided her with new perspective and motivation to become a doctor.

“Being an EMT, you go into people’s homes. It’s given me a lot of insight into how people are living. A lot of them go untreated for so long because they are afraid to reach out for help or because they don’t have insurance or they don’t have the ability to drive. I want to be part of a positive change for patients,” she said.

Verma added that training as an EMT will help her better relate to first-responders once she becomes a doctor, which will lead to better relationships and ultimately better patient care.

“I’m really glad I did EMT at South Piedmont,” she said. “The instructors shared a lot of real-world stories that helped me learn.”

South Piedmont’s Emergency Services programs include EMR, EMT, Advanced Life Support, Paramedic and specialty courses. Learn more at https://spcc.edu/areas-of-study/public-safety/emergency-services/.


Pair of SPCC Sonography Alumna Now Serve Pregnancy Centers in Anson and Union Counties

South Piedmont Community College sonography alumna Dani Burnham and Christy Caudle were both motivated by a desire to make a difference for women in their community.

Now, they’re doing exactly that, as the sonographers at the pregnancy resource centers serving Anson and Union counties.

“I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we feel so grateful for the sonography program here at SPCC. It’s provided us with job opportunities and the chance to serve the community we call home. It’s provided us with a great life,” Caudle said.

Burnham and Caudle’s stories represent the wide spectrum of students who attend SPCC.

Beginning with Burnham, she earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and had a successful career as a geologist. While pregnant with her second child, Burnham decided she needed to make a change.

“I was a staff geologist and did a lot of work with cleaning up groundwater. One day, I was hanging out over a pit of contaminated water and I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’” she said.

“I wanted to serve my community. I also always felt like I missed a calling to be in healthcare. After researching healthcare careers, I was drawn to sonography, and in our area, SPCC’s program is renowned. Everyone wants to hire SPCC sonography graduates.”

Burnham graduated with her Associate in Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography in 2018.

Caudle, meanwhile, decided to become a sonographer while in high school and was interested in attending SPCC.

“All my friends were going to a four-year university, so I ended up following them and becoming a pre-nursing major. It was a totally different experience. There, I was just a random student ID number. No one missed me if I missed a class. I didn’t even make it through the first year; it just wasn’t for me. I transferred to SPCC to do sonography. It was the best decision I could have made.”

Caudle graduated in 2008.

Since receiving their degrees, both Burnham and Caudle have had successful careers in a variety of settings. Both have worked in hospitals and OB/GYN practices. Today, Burnham works at HELP Pregnancy Center in Monroe as a medical administrator and sonographer. Caudle works at Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Wadesboro as a client services manager and sonographer.

“I started in the workforce when I was young, and I’ve had a good job ever since,” Caudle said.

HELP and Hope offer a wide range of services to women during and after their pregnancy. Burnham and Caudle are working to expand their employers’ reach, both in terms of patient volume and services provided.

Burnham and Caudle agreed SPCC prepared them well for the work they’re doing today.

“Everyone in our area knows how rigorous this program is. What they may not know is how this program prepares you to quickly read your patients and adapt the care you provide to what it is that they need,” Burnham said.

“There are some women who want you to hold their hand. There are some who don’t. At SPCC, you learn how to quickly read your patients’ body language and assess their needs. That’s how I make my patients, when they’re with me, feel like they’re the only mother in the world and their baby is the only baby in the world.”

Added Caudle:

“At SPCC, they’re putting you in the workforce and they know you’re going to represent them. They want you to be successful. They prepare you to make a difference for your patients.”

South Piedmont Community College’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program has a nearly 100-percent job placement rate and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

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