TSTC Surgical Technology student Jasmine Villanueva (right) controls a robotic arm on the da Vinci Xi surgical system during a recent one-day training session at Valley Regional Medical Center.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A group of Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology students recently engaged with one of the latest technological medical advancements, the da Vinci Xi robotic surgical system, in a one-day hands-on training session at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville.

The training was provided by American biotechnology company Intuitive Surgical Inc. It was the third time that TSTC’s Surgical Technology program had partnered with Intuitive to sharpen students’ skills, and the first time that the collaboration happened with a team of surgical professionals at an area hospital.

The da Vinci Xi system is used for many surgical procedures.

Anissa Castillo, director of surgical services for Valley Regional Medical Center, said the training helped facilitate the students’ learning as they prepare for careers in the Texas workforce.

“The training was focused on the technical part and troubleshooting of the surgical system,” she said. “The students learned about what happens with the surgical system and the patient. Understanding the ‘why’ of what they do is critical because it pertains to patient safety.”

Zeke Rocha, who is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree, said he was fascinated with the training because such surgical equipment is becoming more streamlined in the medical field.

“I wanted to know how we would dress the robotic arms,” he said. “That’s when the surgical team explained that the technology is preprogrammed to aid in a specific surgical procedure.”

Angelica Torres is also studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in the program.

“We were taught how to drape it by doing a sterile process,” she said. “The training was definitely worth it because more people are starting to choose a robotic surgical procedure.”

Yolanda Ramirez, TSTC’s Surgical Technology program team lead, said having the training in a hospital setting provided students with an authentic and immersive learning experience.

“I was impressed by their adaptability and eagerness to learn,” she said. “(They) appreciated how the surgical team helped them learn the technical aspects of the da Vinci robot. This involvement not only boosts their employability, but prepares them to contribute to the advancement of surgical practices and aligns with the demand for skilled surgical technologists in Texas.”

According to onetonline.org, surgical technologists earn a yearly median salary of $59,810 in Texas, where projected job growth for the profession was forecast to increase 18% from 2020 to 2030.

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

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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