Program: Surgical First Assistant
At a young age, Ranzie Wilson knew she wanted to work in a hospital and help take care of patients.
She became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in high school and, while helping a doctor change a patient’s surgical dressings, was intrigued by another process.
“I was fascinated by wound healing and reapplying dressing, which led me to ask more questions of the surgical area,” she said. “I learned about the role of the surgical technologist and how they set up for the surgical case and how they help the surgeon do various tasks within the OR, such as passing instruments to the surgeon as well as learning how to set up for each individual surgery.”
Wilson became a surgical technologist but, after 10 years, wanted to advance her skills
and contribute more to the surgical procedures. Becoming a surgical assistant allowed
her to increase her scope of practice, and she learned such skills as suturing surgical
incisions, applying surgical dressings, and putting on casts and splints. As a CST/CSFA
(Certified Surgical Technologist/Certified Surgical First Assistant), she was happy
to apply her numerous skills within the OR.
While working full time at Elmhurst Hospital, Wilson often taught newly hired surgical technologists during their orientation as well as surgical technology students, and she began to see teaching as another career opportunity.
“As I would teach the routine for each surgical procedure including set up, the steps of the surgical cases as well as the surgeon’s preferences, I realized that I had it in me to teach others what I do,” she said. “Many people who I taught at the hospital would often tell me that they use many of the tips and ‘tricks’ that I taught them. This actually built up my confidence to apply for an adjunct teaching position at College of DuPage.”
Wilson believes she secured the part-time position because of her passion for teaching new surgical technologists and motivating them to achieve their goals. After several years of teaching while working, a full-time position opened at COD, which led her to teach in both the Surgical Technology and Surgical First Assistant programs. She is now an assistant professor and the chair for the Surgical First Assistant program.
“Dreams really do come true!” she said. “As a teacher in a health care program, I hope that my students become successful surgical assistants. This starts with the first day of class. I want them to be motivated to learn new skills and to learn more about the whole picture of their role and how they impact others, especially their patients. I only have my students for one academic year—three semesters, fall through summer—and my goal during that short amount of time is for them to understand that their new role as a surgical assistant is essential: It is essential for them to learn as much as they can about each and every surgical procedure, it is essential that they are focused and motivated to do their best while assisting in cases, and it is essential for them to help and provide their skills not only for the surgical team but, most importantly, for the patient because that is why we are here.
“For both the surgical technologist and surgical assistant, the professions’ creed
is ‘Aeger Primo,’ which means the patient is first. I hope that as my students go
through the program and continue to work in the surgical field, they always remember
While many things inspire Wilson, her two main sources are her students and coworkers.
“Each day that I teach, I listen to my students, their concerns and their questions. And each day that I am with them, it inspires me to do more, to improve and to change for the better,” she said. “The inspiration, with all of their concerns and questions, that the students give me allows me to find more innovative ways of teaching. I always tell them I may not have all the answers, but I will find them one way or another.
“In the OR, I am used to working as a team and I am so thankful that I have my coworkers—a.k.a. my team—to push me to be the best teacher possible. I value the Nursing and Health Sciences Division because each person has so much experience in their respective health care profession and in teaching. I often ask questions and advice from my coworkers and they are always so willing to help me. I appreciate and value all of their support and knowledge and I am very lucky to be part of this team!”