GWINNETT – NORTH FULTON - Theresa (TC) Parker, who lives with her husband of 35 years in Grayson, was first introduced to the healthcare profession by a friend in the 1990s. She quickly developed a love of the operating room. In 1996 she graduated from Gwinnett Tech as a Surgical Technologist and started her career at Northside Hospital. Parker eventually moved to Gwinnett Medical Center where she worked as the orthopedic resource tech. In 1999, she found herself faced with some interesting opportunities before her – to accept a scholarship to medical school, to go work for an orthopedic surgeon, or to make the leap to academia. She decided to join the Gwinnett Tech faculty as a full-time adjunct clinical director, and just three years later Parker was named the program director.
Under Parker's leadership, the past ten surgical technology cohorts have achieved a 100 percent pass rate for their national credentialing exam on the first try. Only a small percentage of surgical technology programs in the U.S. achieve a 100 percent pass rate and in 2015 only 75 percent of candidates passed the test on the first attempt. Parker's students consistently earn some of the highest scores in the nation and are known to be the best trained in the industry.
Parker shares, "It takes a team to make an operating room safe and successful. In addition to skilled doctors and nurses, surgical technologists are needed for duties from the preparation of the room and sterile field to the important functions of preparing and managing surgical equipment. Their role is vital and I take very seriously my role in ensuring Gwinnett Tech students are well prepared to do their jobs."
TC Parker takes teaching far beyond the simple transfer of information. She explains, "Teaching is not just about the information in the textbooks but putting concepts into practice in a way that it becomes natural. I work to teach not only the academic lessons, but life lessons too. I take great pride in helping my students become consummate professionals in their field and mentoring them to be better people."
Parker tells that one of the most rewarding things about her work is that once her students are pinned and graduate they then become her peers. She often stays in close touch with them and celebrates their work and success throughout their career. Parker's students work all around the country. Parker explains, "That strengthens my network too. Many will come back and share feedback from the field that helps us stay relevant and build the success of our program." Parker shared that she was proud to learn that a former Gwinnett Tech student currently working to launch a surgical technology program at a local college in New York. She said, "I rejoice each time another cohort graduates. It's like taking wildflower seeds and casting them into the wind. They will each find their place, take root and make the world a better place."
Many of the students in the surgical technician program are adults that seek to reengineer their lives and launch second careers. Many have bachelors and masters degrees. When they come into the classroom at Gwinnett Tech, they are focused, dedicated and committed to their studies. Parker doesn’t take personal credit for the success of the program, but instead gives most of the credit to her students. She also says her leadership team - Glenda McCloskey, Jim Rafferty, Erin Baggett and Shelly Walker – are a huge part of her and the program’s success.
Parker's influence in the industry spans far beyond the Gwinnett Tech campus. She spends countless hours working to advance the surgical technology profession. She is actively working now to advocate for change in state laws because Georgia does not require surgical technicians to be licensed and certified. She sees to it that her students are, but it concerns her greatly that there are people allowed in Georgia operating rooms that have not had to prove their competency.
Parker also serves at the forefront of educating future healthcare professionals as a member of the Association of Surgical Technologists' Education & Professional Standards Committee. In this national leadership role, she is responsible for developing strategies that enhance entry level surgical technology education, reviewing production of educational material and developing strategies to ensure the adequacy of the core curriculum for Surgical Technology. Parker takes this role very seriously. She shares, "We are in desperate need of qualified, certified and well-trained technologists in operating rooms across the nation. I take the challenge of collaborating with other professionals very seriously knowing what is at stake. The health, safety and well-being of surgical patients are at the heart of all our hard work on this committee."
As Gwinnett Tech's 2017 "Rick Perkins Award" winner, TC Parker, CST, BS, will now go on to compete for the Statewide Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Education given annually by the Technical College System of Georgia. The Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction began in 1991 and is designed to recognize and honor technical college instructors who make significant contributions to technical education through innovation and leadership in their fields. Formerly known as the Commissioner's Award of Excellence, the Rick Perkins Award was renamed in memory and honor of Thomas "Rick" Perkins, an instructor at West Central Technical College, who received the Commissioner's Award immediately prior to his untimely death.
To learn more about Gwinnett Technical College's dynamic Surgical Technology Program, visit GwinnettTech.edu or call 770-962-7580.
December 20, 2016