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Yuma Regional Medical Center sees success with scrub technician program

YRMC scrub tech Beatriz Santellan.jpeg
Jenn Williams/YRMC
Yuma Regional Medical Center Surgical Tech intern Beatriz Santellan prepares instruments for a total knee replacement surgery. Santellan, who worked at YRMC before joining the program, graduated from the Surgical Tech program in July.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says a shortage of technicians is delaying surgical treatments across the nation.

In response, local hospitals are starting to recruit and train their own surgical technologists.

Recently, in a room filled with plastic wrapped surgical equipment at Yuma Regional Medical Center, Beatriz Santellan laid out instruments to prepare for an orthopedic surgery. Santellan is training to be a surgical technologist.

"My goal is to try to make everything easily accessible instead of trying to go through each tray to try to fins something," she said.

Scrub techs set up the operating room and prep instruments, sutures, sponges, equipment and other important supplies, like prosthetic bones, ahead of surgeries. Their work continues during a procedure, making sure surgeons have what they need.

Scrub techs keep operating rooms safe and sterile for patients and staff.

Melissa Belcher, nurse educator for surgical services at YRMC, says finding scrub techs is hard. YRMC was spending a lot of money trying to recruit them from outside the region

"Surgical teach is kind of a hard job to recruit here to Yuma," Belcher said. "They're in big demand around the country so it's not a problem that's unique to Yuma but it's a little harder to convince someone to move to Yuma when it's 120 degrees out."

YRMC analyzed the workforce and knew there was a potential talent pool in the local labor force.

"We saw the demand but we also saw that we've got some of the best and brightest right here in Yuma County," Belcher said. "Why don't we just train the people that are here and dedicated to our community to do what we do best?"

They created a six month program with help from the hospital's foundation, who provided funds for equipment and updated textbooks. They offer it free to selected candidates who have completed college level anatomy and have experience working with patients.

Brandon Vasquez was already a Patient Care Assistant in the Emergency Department at YRMC but saw an opportunity in the scrub tech program.

YRMC Brandon Vasquez.jpeg
Jenn Williams/YRMC
Brandon Vazquez, a YRMC Surgical Tech intern, prepares instruments for a robotic surgery,

"I like about the program the fact that it was through YRMC itself," Vasquez said. "I really wanted to push myself and give myself a medical career that had more responsibilities and room for advancement and growth."

Vasquez is now working alongside other technicians, nurses and doctors as part of a surgical team.

So far YRMC is happy with the results of its in-house training program.

BITE unique people, physician like it.

Six new scrub techs recently completed the program. A new crop of students has already started.

YRMC surgical techs.jpeg
Jenn Williams/YRMC
Melissa Belcher, nurse educator for surgical services at YRMC, far left, with surgical tech program graduates including Beatriz Santellan and Brandon Vasquez.

Victor is originally from West Sacramento, California and has lived in Arizona for more than five years. He began his print journalism career in 2004 following his graduation from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Victor has been a reporter for the following daily newspapers: The Monterey County Herald, The Salinas Californian and the Reno Gazette-Journal, where he covered stories including agriculture, education and Latino community news. Victor has also served as a local editor for Patch, a national news organization with hyperlocal websites, in Carmichael, California in the Sacramento area. He also served as the editor for The New Vision, the newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which includes Yuma and La Paz counties. Victor lives in Somerton. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends and following most sports.
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