Students find careers after graduation: ACTC Surgical Technology | ACTC

Students find careers after graduation: ACTC Surgical Technology

Dec. 11, 2020



“There are no words to describe the pride I feel,” Heather Cantrell, Surgical Technology program coordinator says to describe recent and upcoming graduates of the program. “These students have overcome so many challenges outside of their control and yet worked diligently and persevered to succeed in a demanding fast paced program,” she added.

The Surgical Technology program at Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) provides clinical experience built upon classroom instruction in the basic sciences, patient care, aseptic techniques and surgical procedures. Graduates from this program are eligible to take the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.

“Surgical Technology is a specific patient care program. This program will teach students to be patient advocates, starting from the very basic patient care aspects to the intricate surgical procedures and sterile technique,” said Cantrell.

She says the Surgical Technology program at ACTC is great for students looking to enter into the healthcare workforce, but work specifically in surgically-focused care, and says there are many opportunities for students to use the skills they learn in the classroom at clinical sites. 

“Traveling to and from regional hospitals for a range of clinical experiences can be the most fun,” Cantrell said. “Learning new and innovative surgical procedures and/or approaches in these facilities as a student can be very exciting.”

After completion of the program, students will test for a national certification though the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

This certification allows students to work as a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) in every state and United States territory. Travel assignments across the country are available after two years of working experience.

Graduates of the program, who pass their certification and become certified, have an opportunity to continue their education and become Surgical First Assistants.

Students who’ve completed the AAS can transfer to a four-year institution and use this as a building block in the pathway toward becoming a Physician Assistant or advance in many other health care fields of study.

Kara Adkins and Jessica Spurlock are both recent graduates of the program and are both employed locally as CSTs. 

Adkins, who graduated last December, says the program helped her to get out of her comfort zone and push herself when she didn’t believe she could do it. 

“The instructors do their best at trying to get you prepared for everything you are going to see in the operating room, and they do everything they can to help you be the best surgical tech you can be,” Adkins says. “They try their best to simulate and make labs like the real O.R. setting. They also do their best at preparing you to take your certification and passing it.”

“This program is set up for success,” said May 2019 program graduate, Jessica Spurlock. “Being in the hospital, the O.R., and really getting a feel for surgery and your job will not only help you succeed and help you realize it this is what you want to do.”

The notion that the program sets students up for success is why both Spurlock and Adkins encourage anyone interested to enroll in the program. 

“They are there to help you and push you to be the best you can be,” said Adkins. “They try to give you everything you need to be a successful tech.”

“My year, every student passed the broads and most of them had jobs before we even finished,” Spurlock added. “The instructors I had were so helpful. They would make you feel comfortable in the class during mock procedures which carried with you to a real O.R. They were a huge part of my success.”

Cantrell says she loves teaching in the Surgical Technology program. 

“I love to share my passion for patient care and surgery with every student,” she says. 

According to research conducted by the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYStats) in 2019 for the TENCO region, entry-level CSTs earn approximately $33,000 annually. 

Students can earn either an Associate in Applied Science - General Occupational Technical Studies degree or a Surgical Technologist diploma. 

“I love what I do and am so fortunate that I get to work as a Surgical Tech. This program, while short, is packed with tons of information and great minds,” said Spurlock. “I made a career out of it and life-long friends.”

For more information about the Surgical Technology program, visit or email 


Written by Megan Smedley, eLearning Student Support Specialist