Health care careers: Waubonsee instructor explains the role of a surgical technologist

  • Shawn Flaar is an adjunct instructor who teaches in Waubonsee Community College's Health Professions and Public Services Program.

    Shawn Flaar is an adjunct instructor who teaches in Waubonsee Community College's Health Professions and Public Services Program. Courtesy of Waubonsee Community College

By Shawn Flaar
Waubonsee Community College
Posted1/25/2019 3:52 PM

"Hello, my name is Shawn and I will be assisting the doctor in your surgery today."

I smile when I introduce myself, hoping the patient can hear me among the sounds and distractions of entering the operating room. The operating room can be an intimidating place. Even I may be intimidating, with a surgical mask covering my face, my eyes hidden behind glasses, hair neatly tucked under a surgical bonnet, and wearing a blue sterile gown. I am standing next to a blue-draped table preparing instrumentation required for the surgery.


Most people do not know what to expect when the doors to the operating room open, and most people have not heard of my profession and the role we play in surgery. I am a surgical technologist, and I will be assisting the doctor in your surgery. Although we may be "a face behind a mask," we have a large impact on the surgery and the surgical team relies on our education, training and skills.

Under the supervision of the surgeon, surgical technologists assist in the operation from the beginning to the end when the patient is moved to recovery. Surgical technologists prepare instrumentation required for each surgery and ensure its sterility. We are responsible for creating and maintaining the "sterile field;" one small break in sterility can result in infection for the patient. We work to efficiently minimize any chance for infection. Like all health care professionals, we adhere to a strict code of ethics, specifically to surgical technology, our surgical conscience.

Throughout our education and career, we are reminded of our surgical conscience and the term "Aeger Primo," a Latin term meaning "The Patient First." Aeger Primo is a reminder above all else, the patient is who we are working for. It is for the patient we make certain our surgeon has everything required to complete the surgery. We work in close proximity with the rest of the operating room team and know the importance of teamwork and communication. The end goal is to efficiently, effectively and safely complete the procedure.

In 2007, I decided to make quite a few changes; one of those involved moving to Kendall County. I was interested in changing my career as well and knew that I wanted to be involved in health care in some capacity. Waubonsee offered several programs in the health care field, and after reading about the Surgical Technology Program, I was certain this was the path for me. The Surgical Technology Program has required prerequisite courses that I had to complete before admission. In the interim, I decided to begin preparing myself for my new career as much as I could. I registered for the prerequisites and enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Program offered through the college. Upon completion of the CNA Program, I enrolled in Phlebotomy; after completion of the Phlebotomy Program, I was hired at Presence Mercy Medical Center, the same location where I had completed my clinical rotation through Waubonsee. While working at Presence I was accepted into the Surgical Technology Program and knew instantly the operating room was where I wanted to be. I graduated from the program in August 2009 and, in September, I accepted a position at an area Outpatient Surgical Center, where I am continuing my role today. While employed as a Surgical Technologist, I was approached with the opportunity to teach the Surgical Technology Program at Waubonsee. I have been the Surgical Technology Lead Instructor for seven years. I continue to pursue challenging opportunities; this year I became the Instructor for the Operating Room Patient Care Technician Program, a new program at Waubonsee focused on preparing students to assist operating room personnel.

For details on Waubonsee's offerings in the health sciences field, visit

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