An Interview with Laronda Cannon
“If you are interested in becoming a surgical technician, I would tell you not to get discouraged by either the coursework or the on-the-job challenges. You have to be able to let things go and not take other people’s frustration, stress and rudeness personally.”
Laronda Cannon is a surgical technician at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington. In 2001, she earned her Certificate in Surgical Technology from Georgia Medical Institute in Marietta, Georgia.
Laronda enjoys working as a surgical tech because she gets to interact with many types of people and patients. She also appreciates that she can earn a good living while working on a steady schedule that allows her to keep her weekends open for family and friends.
In your own words, what is a surgical technician?
A surgical technician is 1 of the most vital and important parts of a surgical team. Surgical techs get the operating room ready before surgery and make sure that the surgeon or doctor will have all of the equipment he or she needs to do their job successfully.
If a student said to you, “I am interested in becoming a surgical technician,” what would your response be?
I would tell the student that being a surgical tech is a very rewarding career. You get to see some of the patients who will benefit from your role, and it is great to know that you are helping people and contributing to their health and well-being.
Are there any licensing or certification requirements to become a surgical tech?
Yes, to become a surgical tech, you need to become certified to work in this position. The fastest way to do this is to enroll in a certification program, like the program that I completed. You can also earn an associates degree in surgical technology, which usually takes 2 years to complete.
Why did you decide to become a surgical tech?
I decided to become a surgical tech because I wanted a more hands-on job that would give me the chance to interact with patients. I used to have a desk job, and I got burned out on always been in an office. I thought being a surgical tech would be fun, so I gave it a try.
What do you enjoy most and least about being a surgical tech?
As a surgical tech, I enjoy working with different people and getting to meet people. I work at the army hospital at Fort Lewis, and we have all kinds of patients who come through. We are also a teaching hospital, which means that we have interns and fellows who come through in various roles and are learning how to become medical professionals. I really like having contact with so many different individuals while I am at work.
But the variety of people can also be 1 of the hardest parts of my job too. Sometimes it can be challenging to work with different personalities and to learn how to take direction from doctors who may not know you very well and may not understand what your day is like.
What is a typical day like for you?
On a typical day, I come to work and make sure that the surgery room where I will assist has everything that the team needs. We are given reference cards that list everything that is needed for a particular surgery, and we use this to make sure that the room is prepared. Once the room is set up, the doctor comes in with any other staff who might need to be present and gives us further instructions if there is anything unusual for that surgery. When it is time for a patient to undergo surgery, everyone gets into their scrubs, the nurse preps the patient, then the doctor begins.
I usually work 40 hours a week. First shift usually runs from 6:45 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. Another common shift is 9 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. If you want to make extra money, you can work holidays and weekends or pick up additional shifts during the week.
How do you balance your work and your personal life?
I don’t have a very hard time balancing my work and personal life because I don’t work weekends. I have plenty of time to socialize, and since I only work 8 hours each day, I still have time after getting home from work to have dinner and spend time with others.
What personality traits do you think would help someone succeed as a surgical tech and what traits would hinder success?
It really helps if you are outgoing or have a good sense of humor as a surgical tech. It can make a world of difference on a team when you work with people who can take their jobs seriously but also know how to have fun and see the best in a situation. Overall, the job is more enjoyable if you are somewhat talkative.
In terms of personality traits that would hinder someone’s success, anyone who is arrogant or thinks that they know everything will not do well in this job. Surgical techs are almost always working in teams, so you have to be able to recognize other ways of doing things and recognize when you have made a mistake or overlooked something.
Looking back at your formal education, is there anything you would have done differently?
If I could do anything differently, I think that I would have gotten my associates degree rather than my certificate. I am a single mother, so it would be harder to finish a 2-year program now than it would have been when I first started my certificate program.
Are there any extra-curricular experiences that you think a student interested in becoming a surgical tech should pursue?
Well, before I became a surgical tech, I worked in a veterinarian’s office, which gave me a sense of what operating rooms would be like. I was able to see if I would actually be able to handle working in that kind of environment. This was a great option because I could work part time while I was still in school.
I would say that a student should pursue any opportunity they have to gain experience working in the medical field or working in situations that involve operations, surgeries or medical procedures.
What classes did you take during your schooling that you have found to be the most and least valuable for the work you do today?
The class I took on aseptic techniques has been very valuable. Often people don’t realize very basic things about working in sterile environments. For instance, you have to keep your hands above a certain level or they become contaminated, at which point you risk contaminating the entire operating room.
My least valuable class was a speech class. I haven’t needed to give any speeches or practice public speaking in my job.
What words of advice or caution would you share with a student who is interested in becoming a surgical technician?
If you are interested in becoming a surgical technician, I would tell you not to get discouraged by either the coursework or the on-the-job challenges. You have to be able to let things go and not take other people’s frustration, stress and rudeness personally. Sometimes, when you are on the job, doctors may talk to you without a lot of thought. You have to realize that they may have had a bad day and their jobs are very stressful.
Having said that, you can also expect to earn good starting wages when you enter the field as a surgical tech. In some hospitals in Washington state, for example, surgical techs start out at $19 an hour and move up from there.