What Does a Surgical Technician Do?

Surgical technicians or technologists - sometimes called scrubs - make sure that surgical procedures in the operating room are handled efficiently and under sterile conditions. Read on to learn more about the job duties, necessary skills, and employment outlook for this career. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Surgical technicians, also called surgical technologists, work in operating rooms under the supervision of surgeons and surgical assistants. Your work may include preparing an operating room by setting up and sterilizing equipment, checking machines that monitor vitals, and assembling equipment for surgery. You may also escort patients from their rooms to surgery or move them to postoperative recovery after their operations. During an operation, you will assist surgeons by handing them needed tools, holding retractors, prepping or disposing of specimens, and helping with cleanup and decontamination procedures.

Important Facts About Surgical Technicians

Work Environment On-call work is common for hospital-based technicians; hours often extend beyond a typical 8-hour day
Similar Occupations Dental assistant, clinical lab technician, registered nurse
On-the-job Training None
Key Skills Detailed oriented, stress management, dexterity, physical stamina

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Skills and Abilities

As an important member of the surgical team, you must be comfortable around medical equipment and aware of the safety steps that protect patients and medical staff from infection or contamination. You must also be aware of common surgical procedures and capable of following directions in an emergency or high-stress situation. Attention to detail and a desire to help people are also valuable assets, should you choose to pursue this career.

Education Required

To acquire the technical skills you need for this profession, you may choose to attend a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Depending on your educational goals, there are several options to choose from, including certificate programs, diploma programs, and associate's degree programs. You may expect to complete most certificate and diploma programs in nine months to a year. Most associate's degree programs are two years in length and include several general course requirements in the liberal arts in addition to the practical skills course requirements you'll fulfill.

Certification Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), most employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned certification through a professional organization. You may choose to pursue credentialing from one of several organizations, such as the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). The NCCT offers the Tech in Surgery - Certified (NCCT) credential, while the NBSTSA offers a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. Both organizations require you to have completed formal education and a number of hours of professional experience to become certified.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, employment of surgical technologists had been expected to increase by 12% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Although you might find work in a number of different locations, the BLS reports that in 2018, the majority of surgical technologists worked in general and surgical hospital operating rooms. Other potential employers include medical and dental offices that perform outpatient surgery and outpatient care facilities.

Additionally, Payscale.com published in June 2019 the median annual salary among surgical technologists as $41,715.

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