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ACC Instructor Converts Spare Room Into Surgical Technology Skills Home Lab


In the age of coronavirus and virtual classrooms, "homework" has a whole new meaning for Jennifer Plancarte.

Thanks to a supportive husband and a trip to Home Depot, the American Career College instructor recently transformed her den into a skills lab to help teach her surgical technology students online.

“I needed to find a way to make sure my students didn’t get bored and stayed engaged, so the best answer was ‘Bring the lab home,’” Plancarte said. “We bought some plywood and with two barstools from the kitchen, we made it happen. It looks like an operating table but it’s just movie magic.”

And while her “OR” might not be real, all of the supplies, instruments and equipment used in Plancarte’s home demonstrations are exactly what you would find in an operating room or the skills lab on campus.

“The funny part is about 80 percent of all of this equipment is mine. When I was a student, I was that student that tried to overachieve and I went out of my way to buy all these instruments, whether it was eBay or whatever,” she said. “I never really used them after graduation and working. But when this happened, I went to the shed and pulled out all my old equipment and I have used everything that I could.”

Besides bringing the lab home, Plancarte and fellow ACC-Orange County surgical technology instructor Rebecca Hutchins recorded a series of “how-to” videos before campus closed on topics like scrubbing in for surgery or how to properly “gown up.” Students also were allowed to check out items like surgical gowns or sterile field packages so they could practice at home. While attending class online, students even go as far as to wear scrubs and hair covers to better simulate their operating room environment.

“Teaching online has been very beneficial because it still correlates with lecture. I’m able to use my own equipment here as examples during class and it goes hand-in-hand with lab because when the students return to campus they will have a better understanding of the instruments and what they are used for because they’ve seen them before,” Plancarte said.

By using a combination of recorded and live video, Plancarte said she has the best of both worlds. Not only does the class review lessons step-by-step via video tutorials, but the students can also get individualized, in-depth answers during live sessions to any questions they might have. Students can also show themselves on camera going over instruments or techniques and can get instant feedback from the instructors.

“While I really miss being in class, I love this aspect of teaching because it helps us really dig deep into the books and makes the students think harder about the subject because we’re asking them to explain so much more,” Plancarte said. “When I’m teaching, I have Miss Hutchins backing me up. While she’s at her kitchen sink showing people how to scrub in, I’m talking through how she’s doing it, step-by-step. It’s truly an interactive class.”

An ACC graduate herself, Plancarte said she understands how hard the surgical technology program can be — even without factoring in distractions like work, family and now the additional element of staying safe and healthy during a pandemic. While juggling teaching from home and taking care of an 18-month-old baby herself, Plancarte said she continues to be inspired by her students who log into class, prepared to learn and participate every day.

“I don’t have words to say ‘thank you’ for all my students pushing through the hard times. I get emotional talking about it, but you can already see in the students that they have the mindset of a true surgical tech,” Plancarte said. “What I want to share is a message of gratitude because the hard work we put in as instructors, we also see it in what the students are giving back to us.”

ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.

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