Operating Room Technician: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Operating room technicians support the surgical team. Learn more about their many job duties, both pre- and post-surgery, and explore the necessary education for this position. Review the job outlook and typical earnings for these technicians. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Operating Room Technician?

As an operating room technician, you prepare rooms for surgery by sterilizing the equipment and running tests to be sure that all the equipment is working properly. You also prepare patients for surgical procedures, transport them to the operating room, position them and cover them with sterile surgical drapes. During surgery, your responsibilities include keeping track of supplies, such as retractors, sutures, sponges, needles and instruments, and handing them to surgeons as needed. Once the procedure is completed, you may take the patient to a recovery area and prepare the room for the next surgery. Operating room technicians may also be referred to as surgical technologists or scrubs.

The important information below contains details about becoming operating room technicians.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Surgical technology
Certification Optional certifications available; often preferred by employers
Key Duties Assist doctors during surgery
Job Growth (2014-2024) 15%*
Median Salary (2015) $44,330*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is My Job Outlook?

As United States citizens live longer and the population grows, the demand for operating room technicians is expected to increase at an above average rate. An aging population will require more surgery for age-related ailments, while certain procedures become both cheaper and easier. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that during the 2014-2024 decade, the number of surgical technologists in the country would increase 15% (www.bls.gov). You are likely to be employed by hospitals, physicians' offices or outpatient centers. According to a May 2015 BLS report, the middle half of surgical technologists earned between $36,340 and $54,000 a year.

What Training Do I Need?

To become an operating room technician, you should earn a certificate, diploma or associate's degree in surgical technology. Programs of study combine classroom and clinical training and cover topics in medical terminology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and professional ethics. Most programs take between nine and 24 months to complete, and are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org).

While it isn't required, you may find that employers prefer applicants with certification. You may earn certification from the National Center for Competency Testing through a combination of education and professional experience. Another certification option is the National Board of Surgical Technology's Certified Surgical Technologist designation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar to how operating room technicians work with surgeons, dental assistants may work with dentists during dental procedures. This includes prepping patients, taking x-rays, keeping track of dental equipment and keeping the area clean. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work under doctors and registered nurses (RNs) and may assist in basic nursing procedures under the direction of their supervisor. Medical assistants are involved in more everyday clerical and clinical procedures, and they may be asked record information in databases and take patients vital signs.

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