New Program at Gateway Community College (GCC) Prepares Surgical Technologists for Growing Field

Friday, June 7, 2019

In a pristine lab set up to mirror the experience of a hospital operating room, Gateway Community College’s Surgical Technology students are training to meet a critical need in the healthcare field.The first class enrolled in GCC’s Surgical Technology program.

Unlike most GCC students, who travel to downtown New Haven, the Surgical Technology program’s home base is at Eli Whitney Technical High School in Hamden.  When not in class, students rotate through clinical sites, which include Yale-New Haven Hospital, St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Waterbury Hospital, and Bristol Hospital. 

A satellite of Housatonic Community College’s (HCC) Surgical Technology Associate of Science degree program, it is part of the Allied Health & Nursing Division at GCC.  Employment in the field is growing much faster than average; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics it is projected to grow 15 percent from 2014-2024. 

GCC’s new Surgical Technology program is in its first year of preparing students to enter the field.  There are 12 students entering their second year in the program and GCC can accept up to 20 students per year. 

Once they graduate from the program, students with a degree in Surgical Technology will be responsible for assembling and organizing specialized instruments, equipment and tools needed for a variety of surgical procedures in hospitals and surgical clinics.  Surgical technologists are experts in sterile technique and are responsible for maintaining the sterile field during surgery.  They work closely with surgeons, registered nurses and anesthesia personnel.   

Sheila Solernou, director of GCC’s Allied Health & Nursing Division, said that the program was needed in the region after several schools in the state closed.  The Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing had a surgical technology program and the final class graduated in May 2016.  Another program at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford also shut down.  Eli Whitney Technical High School closed its program in 2016 also, creating a void in the region and providing lab space and an ideal setup for GCC to move in. 

Solernou was initially approached by officials at Yale-New Haven Hospital in spring 2017 about partnering to establish a surgical technology program.  Manchester Community College partners with Hartford Hospital to offer a program.  Since HCC was already working on developing a Surgical Technology associate degree program, it made sense for the two community colleges to work together and GCC to be a satellite location.  Yale-New Haven Hospital funds the clinical coordinator position at GCC.  Solernou said that the partnership with GCC, HCC, Eli Whitney and Yale-New Haven Hospital has been great for students and the region.

“We’re meeting a workforce need.  We’re very excited about that,” she said.