Kirkwood Surgical Technology grads all pass national certification exam

Kirkwood Community College’s most recent crop of Surgical Technology students set the standard for their national certification exam, thanks to a change instructors made in helping them prepare. Each member of the December graduating class passed the Certified Surgical Technologist exam on the first try, far exceeding the national average of just 70 percent.

Last summer Surgical Technology faculty members started making tweaks to how students would study for the national exam. Instructors added numerous study guides into one database for students, and started creating their own questions to quiz students.

Each week students were required to answer hundreds of questions in these quizzes built online by instructors. The quizzes were created to simulate the national exam’s 175 question computer-based test.

“Knowing the national exam is computer-based, we wanted to prepare our students in as similar an environment as we could,” said Kirkwood Surgical Technology Program Coordinator Melissa Carnahan. “It’s a very difficult test, but showing they have the knowledge on our tests is translating to understanding the questions on the national exam.”

Typically, about 80 percent of Kirkwood students pass the national exam on the first attempt. Carnahan said the new focus on the quizzes helps students ready for the exam and understand the concepts being taught. Earning the certification allows them to apply for jobs in any state.

Carnahan said that while the quizzes are helping students prepare for the test, it’s the 500 hours of clinical rotation students go through that have them ready for work upon graduation. They work alongside surgeons on live patients.

“Juggling 40-hours a week in clinicals, their other jobs and families at home, we put a lot on their plates in the one year they’re with us,” added Carnahan. “But with all of the preparation, they’re more than ready to hit the job market with the skills and confidence needed in this field.”

Kirkwood Surgical Technology students can earn a diploma in one year, or continue working towards a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree.

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