Student Spotlight: Tracy Swan
Major: Surgical Technology
Tracy Swan began attending College of DuPage at the age of 17.
“During the late ’80s and early ’90s when the airline industry was quite the sought-after position for a young female, I was taking classes in travel and tourism,” she said. “I believed this would give me a window of opportunity for a position as a flight attendant. However, when I turned 19, I was offered a chance to begin training immediately as a flight attendant in Houston, Texas, with a major airline. Unfortunately, my training prevented me from obtaining a degree.”
Swan eventually left that career and dedicated herself to homeschooling her three children for 15 years. When that phase in her life ended, she began looking at options for a new career.
“All three of my children have received degrees in the medical field and are currently working in the field of medicine, and I enjoy the conversations I have with them regarding their lines of work,” she said. “My daughter did some research and found the Surgical Technology program at College of DuPage, and I felt like this was something I would like to try. Returning to College of DuPage gave me a great sense of accomplishment in finishing what I started 20 years ago.”
She completed her Surgical Technology certificate and, after passing the national Surgical Technology certification exam, found a job at Good Samaritan Hospital. In 2017, she earned her associate’s degree.
“Good Samaritan is a good fit for me and I am growing there,” she said. “Surgical technologists must be able to perform every area of specialty. While I enjoy many different areas of surgery, I am currently specializing in ENT and plastics.
“I’ve had the privilege to be precepted by many technologists who are College of DuPage graduates, which is a testament to the program led by Kathy Cabai and Ranzie Wilson.”
In addition to her job, Swan makes time for her many hobbies, including handcrafting soap, which she has done for years and has shared with many COD faculty members.
“Being a tech allows for me to critically think and engages me in ways that a hobby does not, so to have both is crucial for me,” she said. “Like any job, you will have stressful days so having an outlet for those days helps keep you neutral.”
Swan met her educational goals thanks to College of DuPage, especially its modern facilities and the realistic mock operating room.
“In the Surgical Technology lab, we worked with the exact instrumentation and equipment that the hospitals and surgery centers are using, which was a valuable tool in preparing us for a real-life patient experience,” she said. “The Surgical Technology program also has a dedicated program director who has an extensive background in the medical field, which gave us a valuable advantage over other surgical technology programs. These factors influenced my decision to be a part of this program.
“The advice I would give a prospective student would be to do your research when choosing a program like this. There are others out there that do not provide the kind of education, dedication, classroom/lab experience, clinical sites and preparedness that is absolutely mandatory for a student to enter into a career in the operating room. Also, the anatomy and physiology and medical terminology prerequisite courses are crucial to study in order to succeed.
“Be patient! When they say five years before you are comfortable in your line of work, they are not kidding. I have been a tech for a year and a half and there are times when months pass before you do a case that is similar to one that stretched you or that you have never done before. It is OK that you do not remember everything. Just rely on your basics and knowledge of your instruments, and the rest of the case will go smoothly.
“At my age, I was very concerned about starting over, going back to school and entering a career that I had no background in. But I am very glad I did.”
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