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Surgical Tech Director Brings Real-World Experiences to Classroom

May 10, 2022

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Being able to relate classroom teachings to real-world experiences is important in almost any program. Heather Gray, director and clinical coordinator for Blackhawk’s Surgical Technology program, has over 20 years of experience to draw from.

A native of Whitewater, Heather graduated from Blackhawk with an associate degree as a medical secretary before moving on to Madison College to complete her technical diploma as a surgical technician. Following that, she took the certification exam to become a Certified Surgical Technologist.

She recalls that it wasn’t necessarily her idea that drove her down that path. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after high school, and it was her uncle that directed her to the medical field.

“There was a two-year wait to get into the surgical technology program,” she said. “I didn’t want to be out of school for that much time, so I chose an associate degree program to complete at Blackhawk. If not for my uncle, I may not have the career I have now.”

In her time as a surgical technician, the biggest change Heather has seen is more hospitals offering a competitive wage. Whether directly or indirectly, that change could be attributed to the pandemic, which brought its own challenges to the field.

“When the pandemic hit and the number of patients being treated long-term rose, the hospitals needed to suspend all elective cases,” she said. “This decreased all healthcare workers’ hours including surgical technicians.”

Heather’s biggest goal is to have her students be able to bring the basic skills they learn to the workforce so that they can continue growing in what she sees as a specialized field.

“There are many people that cannot comprehend everything that we do as surgical technicians,” she said. “The training that we provide our students with is very specific. We cannot be replaced by just anyone.”

Away from the operating room and classroom, Heather and her husband have three children and two dogs. She enjoys spending time with her family and playing sand volleyball in the summer.

National Hospital Week is observed from May 8-14. The first National Hospital Day was established in 1921 as a way to encourage community members to support hospitals after the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918. In 1953, National Hospital Day was turned into National Hospital Week.

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