Berkeley Today Stories
Alumna Reflects on Surgical Processing Technician Program and Clinical Practicum
Juliana Lopez graduated from the Surgical Processing Technician Certificate program in September 2015. She served her Clinical Practicum at the Zufall Health Center-Dental Clinic in Dover and is now employed there as a dental assistant. A Dean’s List student throughout her academic career at Berkeley College, Ms. Lopez passed the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) examination before graduating. Below, Ms. Lopez discusses the Surgical Processing Technician program and the benefits of serving a Clinical Practicum:
Why did you choose to enroll in the Surgical Processing Technician program at Berkeley College?
I’ve always been interested in the medical field and initially thought I would like to enroll in the Surgical Technology program at Berkeley College. After meeting with an Admissions advisor, I decided that the Surgical Processing Technician program was a better choice for me. It would give me the opportunity to learn the instruments while working behind the scenes.
Were you happy with your program choice?
The Surgical Processing Technician program definitely exceeded my expectations. From the moment you walked into class, you could feel the positive energy of the instructors. They were not only there to teach course curriculum. They had secondary jobs in a hospital setting and they incorporated their work experience into classroom discussions. They spoke about different cases and surgeries and the instruments that were used. I went into this program with an open mind and graduated with a whole new awareness of the crucial role sterile processors play in infection control.
Surgical Processing Technician students are required to serve a Clinical Practicum to graduate. How did you benefit from the practicum experience?
For my clinical requirements, the Berkeley College Career Services Department placed me in the dental clinic at the Zufall Health Center in Dover. It was a great experience. From the moment I stepped into the sterilization room, I was able to apply everything I was taught in class about cleaning the instruments and operating the autoclave. We didn’t learn much about dental instruments at Berkeley College, so I was excited to learn something new during my clinical rotations. The employees at Zufall were very friendly. They welcomed me with open arms and were happy to teach me the instruments. It was a great experience and led to my current position at the company.
What advice can you offer to new students entering the Surgical Processing Technician program?
The program is challenging, especially when instructors start introducing instrument trays. Many of the instruments look alike, and you have to stay focused and study hard to do well on the tests.
It’s also important to work hard during the clinical portion of the program. When I started my clinical rotations at Zufall, I set a goal for myself to be hired by the company. I quickly memorized the new instruments and whatever they needed from me — even if it wasn’t part of my position — I made myself available for them. You have to be proactive. Especially when you are a student in the clinical session, they notice when you go above and beyond.
Are you enjoying your current role at Zufall and is there room for growth?
I was hired as a dental assistant when my clinical rotations ended. In addition, because I have CRCST certification I have been assigned to one of my company’s three clinics to supervise the sterilization process. Another Berkeley College graduate who works with me also supervises one of the sterilization sites. She helped me every step of the way and serves as a mentor for me.
There definitely is room for growth at this company. Zufall is currently paying for me to go back to school to study for my dental radiology certification. Once I complete that, I will continue my studies to become a Certified Dental Assistant. With each certification, I can advance in my role at the company and eventually will be working more hands-on with the patients.