An interview with Tom Kumke, a current surgical technician student at Southwest Florida College.

Q: What campus are you attending?
The Port Charlotte campus.
Q: What’s the nature of the program you’re attending?
I’m in the surgery tech program, it’s an Associates degree program, and I’m half way through.
Q: What is your current career?
I’m in Retail.
Q:  Describe a typical day in school for you?

We are just half way, so I’m getting my early classes out of the way. I just started an anatomy and physiology class. Right now a typical day is 4 hours of class lectures, taking quizzes every week, and learning terminology and all the basics.

I’m working hard during the day at work and at school in the evenings. I’ll have some early afternoon classes next semester too.

Q:  Are you happy with the training that you received so far?

So far so good.

!:  How long is the program?

It’s 2 years.

Q:  What are your favorite classes and why are they your favorite?

I do enjoy anatomy and physiology most. It’s the core of my degree and the teacher does a really good job.

Q:  Who is the teacher?

Dr. Intress.

Q:  How much did it cost for you to complete the program?

I don’t know exactly. I know they gave me the figure in the beginning, but it was so big I didn’t look at it again. I can say through Pell grants, financial aid, and my employer’s reimbursement, it’s definitely been affordable.

Did you receive any financial aid or scholarships? Which ones? Were these easy to obtain?

I do have financial aid in the form of Pell grants, but the school takes care of all that. They do the paperwork for me. That part has been really easy, however to get reimbursed through my employer at Lowes has been a little more difficult, but they’re really good about it. It’s an excellent program they have.

Q:  Do you go to school on a full-time or part-time basis?

Technically ¾, but I consider myself full time. I take an average of 9-12 credits per semester.

Q:  Were any of your classes online?

I took one online, career development. It’s an elective but it may be a required elective, they signed me up for it.

Q:  Did you consider other programs before going into the surgery tech program?

Not really, I saw some stuff about the program, did some research online, and thought that this sounded like something I wanted to do. Then my wife signed me up and told me I started on Monday.

Q:  Why did you choose the one you did?

At age 43, I decided I just thought this was something I might want to do you know, and then my wife decided I should.

Q:  What was the most difficult part of the program for you?

Just finding the time. Being a full-time parent and employee, and at the same time just getting used to going back to school. It’s been 25 years of not going back to school. It took a long time before my brain started getting used to listening and remembering things.

Q:  Do they offer help for students like you who have been out of school for a long time?

They got a lot of things there that I haven’t taken advantage of.

They have special instruction which is like tutoring, and they have mentoring. I haven’t taken advantage of that because I just think if I can’t get myself to do it, you know, my problem was just getting myself in the right frame of mind. I’ve been a drone employee for the past 25 years. They do have help though.

Q:  About how many other students are in your classes?

About 14 to 15 students. It is nice because the teacher has time to do individual interaction. You’re not overwhelmed, and you get to ask questions.

Q:  For your particular program, are there any special licenses or certifications that you need to receive before getting a job? If so, what are they and what do they entail?

There is a certification from what I understand. I have to do the test, but they do prepare you for that. From what I understand I should be prepared, and I will hold them to that.

Q:  If there were online classes, how was the experience of online versus a classroom setting?

I hate it. I’d much rather be in a classroom where I can interact with the teacher and ask questions, but you know some people love it, the relaxed atmosphere of it.

For me, I prefer to be scheduled. I need that structure to make sure I allot the time so I can treat it like a job and do the work. The other thing of not being able to talk to the instructors is a big thing for me.

Q:  Did you feel that you were able to learn as well as you would have in the classroom setting, and would you take one again?

I would take them occasionally depending on the class. I would rather take it online than drive to Fort Myers if they didn’t offer it on my campus, but the more important the instructor is, like with my anatomy class, the more I want to take it in a classroom setting.

I had some bad experiences but I did fine in the end. Overall, I just didn’t care for it and the way it was run.

Q:  Would you recommend this school to someone else? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Actually I’ve already recommended it to some of the people I work with. I did it because the programs that they offer are good, if it’s what they’re interested in. The school is well run, and the instructors are very knowledgeable. It’s not just get your degree and get out. They will work with you to find a job and make sure you get all the right certifications, and make sure you stay on track. This is what they told me when I started and then I found it to be true since I’ve been there.

View a list of all schools offering surgical technician programs in Florida.