Na’Tasha Sams could tell from the beginning that she wasn’t just a face in the crowd at Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). During every step of her educational journey toward a certification in surgical technology, Sams was treated by her professors and advisors as an individual — specifically, a mom with a goal of advancing her education and securing a job in her chosen field.

That individual treatment took a number of forms: A faculty member encouraging her to bring her young son to meetings when she wasn’t able to find childcare; a professor taking extra time to work through classwork; advisors cheering her on, helping her to realize her potential. Their flexibility and willingness to work with her, along with smaller class sizes, were a big part of what drew Sams to COTC to begin with.

"The faculty have so many resources available to help you be successful," said Sams, of Columbus. "I love the environment."

Sams enrolled at COTC after briefly attending another higher education institution. Thanks to general education credits that transferred, she already had a jump on coursework when she began working toward the one-year surgical technology certification.

But that’s not the only thing that gave Sams a head start: Upon graduation in August 2019, Sams had been hired as a surgical technologist at The Ohio State University Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (The James) in Columbus, where she was on clinical rotation as part of her curriculum.

"They actually hired me before I finished school," says Sams, who will continue to work for The James while furthering her education at COTC. She expects to graduate in December with an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology.

Amid the sleepless nights and busy days as a toddler mom, Sams is thankful for the support she received from faculty like Lora Smith, program coordinator and assistant professor of surgical technology. "We always just celebrated the small victories," says Smith, who describes Sams as "professional," "endearing" and "a great student."

"She worked hard for what she wanted," Smith says.

With class sizes of no more than 12, Smith appreciates the opportunities she has at COTC to connect with students like Sams.

At the beginning of each year, Smith asks students to write a paper describing their "why": Why they chose to become students at COTC and what they expect to get out of the program. Many students are the first in their families to graduate from high school or attend college, Smith says.

When the students participate in the pinning ceremony at the end of the program, Smith gives them copies of their "why" papers to share with their loved ones as a reminder of how far they have come.

Sams’ success story is just one of many Smith knows she’ll experience as a professor at COTC.

"She was a great student and a great person. I loved her," Smith said. "She worked for everything she had, and it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate her."

Recent graduates of COTC’s surgical technology program have enjoyed a 100 percent placement rate after graduation. Surgical technologist is listed on the 2019 Ohio Means Jobs In-Demand Careers list and the median annual wage for a surgical technologist in Ohio is $40,520, according to Ohio Labor Marketing information.

COTC offers the Associate of Applied Science, a one-year certificate in surgical technology and an accelerated program offering credit for work experience. Graduates are eligible to take a national certifying exam to become a certified surgical technologist. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) through the Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology.

Visit go.cotc.edu/surgtech to learn more, or call or email the COTC Office of Admissions at 740.366.9222 or cotcadmissions@cotc.edu.

Register for an upcoming Healthcare Career Visit and Tour at go.cotc.edu/visit.