What Is a Surgical Instrument Technician?

There are two types of support professionals to play vital roles in the handling and availability of sterilized equipment during surgery and other medical procedures: the sterile processing technician and the surgical instrument technician. Read on to learn how these technicians prepare for surgery, assist during procedures, and safely wrap up afterward. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Surgical Instrument Technician Career Overview

The job of a surgical instrument technician is to oversee the medical equipment that gets used in a surgical procedure. Surgical instrument technicians have a great deal of responsibility in and out of the operating room. In addition to being present in the operating room to supply the requested tools, you must know how to prepare and sterilize the instruments.

Before surgery, your job is to review a patient's medical history, stock the operating room with the needed equipment, and disinfect the patient's incision area. During the surgery, you'll assist the surgeon by operating diagnostic machinery, monitoring the patient's vital signs, and disposing of used equipment. After surgery, you'll transport the patient to a recovery room, sterilize equipment to be used again, and ready the operating room for the next surgery.

Important Facts About Surgical Instrument Technicians

On-the-Job Training Not provided
Key Skills Excellent observation, critical thinking, time management, high quality control standards, good judgment and decision making
Work Environment Predominately full-time; overtime sometimes required; may be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays
Similar Occupations Dental assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, clinical lab technicians, medical assistants

Training

To become a surgical instrument technician, you can obtain a degree or certification by completing training programs offered by universities, technical schools, hospitals, or the military. These training programs take 9-24 months to complete, and a high school diploma or GED is generally required to enroll. Some states require these professionals to be certified, which can be obtained from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, among other organizations. Once certified, you should have a fundamental knowledge of anatomy, sterilization techniques, infection control, pharmaceutical administering, and surgery procedures. After that, completion of continuing education coursework is necessary to maintain certification.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the average salary earned for surgical technologists is $49,040 in 2018, and the job outlook is thriving at 12% from 2016 to 2026. Your pay rate can be determined by your experience and education level. While surgical instrument technicians are primarily hired by hospitals, some find work in clinical centers or physician offices. You can choose to pursue further education in an area of specialization that suits your interests. There will steadily be opportunities for technicians, since medicine has a firm and permanent place in society.

Sterile Processing Technician

A similar career one can pursue is that of a sterile processing technician. Sterile processing technicians do not play a part in the operating room during surgeries. Rather, in this role, you'd be in charge of stocking, packaging, and sterilizing the tools and equipment used in medical and surgical settings prior to procedures. It would be your responsibility to make sure that these tools and equipment are ready to be safely used for each operation. Hospitals, doctor's offices, public health clinics, and surgical centers are among the possible settings for employment.

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