TSTC Surgical Technology students Miguel Flores (left) and Rene Arce (right) observe Brianna Alvarado (center), a clinical representative for Intuitive Surgical Inc., show how to properly manipulate a robotic arm on the da Vinci Xi surgical system during a recent one-day training session at TSTC’s Harlingen campus.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Some Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology students recently engaged in a one-day hands-on training session with the da Vinci Xi surgical system provided by medical company Intuitive Surgical Inc.

It is the second year that TSTC’s Surgical Technology program and Intuitive have collaborated to immerse students in cutting-edge technology to prepare them for a career in the operating room.

The fourth-generation da Vinci robotic-assisted system uses the latest developments in surgical and robotic technologies across a range of surgical procedures.

Additionally, it is the only robotic system cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to perform surgery in multiple specialty areas, according to Intuitive.

“The collaboration with the students was a great success by simply introducing the technology to them before they graduate,” said Brianna Alvarado, clinical representative for Intuitive. “The training is intended to provide students with more confidence in the operating room. The da Vinci Xi system has the capability to access all four quadrants in the human torso with wrist articulation, and it creates more precision during soft-tissue surgeries.”

TSTC student Jennifer Puga, of Harlingen, said the class was provided with a great introduction to the technology.

“Ms. Alvarado took the time to explain how everything works,” she said. “That consisted of how the buttons function, how to make adjustments, how to dock the training system, how to insert the ports, and how to manipulate the robotic-assisted arms into their appropriate position.”

Puga, who is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree, said the training was valuable.

“This training gives me more confidence to assist surgical technicians and have everything set up when a surgeon enters the operating room,” she said.

Rene Arce is also studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program.

He said it was his first time seeing the da Vinci Xi training system.

“It appears intimidating at first if you haven’t been introduced to the equipment,” he said. “That was my situation. After the trainer began her instruction, it was easier to understand — especially when you approach it hands-on.”

Arce said the training inspired him to be ready for future technological advances.

“I want to be one of the first to learn hands-on training for any new equipment,” he said. “That will enhance my performance, and medical professionals will observe that.”

Yolanda Ramirez, TSTC’s Surgical Technology program director, said the training was a game changer for her students.

“Every hospital in the Rio Grande Valley has a da Vinci training system, and more surgical procedures are being performed robotically than ever before,” she said. “The students will learn what a surgeon views during a surgical procedure and how to assist them with the necessary instrumentation.”

Ramirez added that the training will benefit the students’ employability.

“The purpose is to provide students with greater marketability when they enter the Texas workforce,” she said.

According to onetonline.org, surgical technologists can earn a yearly median salary of more than $50,930 in Texas, where projected job growth for the profession was forecast to increase 18% from 2020 to 2030.

At its Harlingen campus, TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology and an occupational skills achievement award in Sterile Processing.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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