Although surgeons actually perform the invasive medical procedures patients need, they are typically surrounded by support staff that assist in the process. One of those support staff members is a surgical technologist whose duty it is to prepare the operating room for surgery and help nurses and doctors where needed during the procedure. Typically, surgical technologists perform the following duties:
- Sterilize equipment
- Ensure there are adequate supplies for the procedure
- Prep patients for surgery which includes washing and disinfecting where the surgeon will be cutting
- Passing instruments to nurses and doctors during the procedure
- Help clean and restock the operating room after the surgery
Surgical technologists always work with a team that includes physicians, registered nurses and other medical staff. In addition to preparing the operating room and patients for surgery, surgical technologists create sterilizing solutions for medical tools, check equipment to ensure it is working properly, and assist nurses and doctors with putting on gloves and gowns. After the surgery, they may be called upon to take extracted specimens to a laboratory or properly dispose of them.
Surgical Technologist Certification
A certificate or associate’s degree is required to obtain employment as a surgical technologist. A few states require people in these jobs to be licensed. Community colleges and vocational schools offer accredited programs in this field that lead to a certificate after a few months or an associate’s degree after two years of study. In addition to classroom study, many schools provide hands-on training in a supervised clinical environment.
Although credentialing is not required, it can be helpful in obtaining employment. The leading certifying organization for surgical technologists is the Association of Surgical Technologists. They offer two certifications: Certified Surgical Technologist and Certified Surgical First Assistant. To earn these credentials you must graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Continuing education is required to maintain the credential.
Other certifying agencies include the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Healthcare Association.
Dexterity: You will be passing equipment to medical staff quickly, which requires you to have control over and be comfortable using your hands.
Detail oriented: In addition to being able to follow directions and ensure the operating room is prepped correctly, you must always be aware of what is happening during the surgery. Lapsed attention can mean the difference between life and death.
Physical and emotional stamina: You will be standing for long periods of time. Additionally, the operating room can be a stressful place where emotionally disturbing events regularly occur.
Surgical Technologist Job description
About 69% of surgical technologists work in hospitals. Physician offices, outpatient care centers, and dental offices also employ surgical technologists. Although the area where you will work is clean and sterile, you will still be exposed to infectious agents. However, the risk of contracting a communicable disease can be significantly lowered by following safety protocols and wearing protective clothing like surgical masks.
As noted before, you will be standing for long periods of time. You will also be exposed to unpleasant sights, sounds, smells, and even disturbing materials. Surgical technologists work full time and may be required to work evening, weekends, holidays, overnights, overtime and be on call.
Surgical Technologist Salary
On average, surgical technologists make $39,920 per year. This varies between employers though. Outpatient care centers pay the highest average wage at $41,210 followed by physician offices at $41,030, general and surgical hospitals at $39,600, and dentist offices at $36,480. The top 10% and lower 10% earn $57,330 and $28,100 respectively. Wages may be supplemented by benefits such as health insurance, paid sick time, and overtime pay.
Surgical technologist held approximately 93,600 jobs in 2010. Like other healthcare jobs, the demand for surgical technologists is expected to increase dramatically, about 19% by 2020. Surgeries are safer due to advances in medical technology and more medical professionals are recommending them as a treatment option. Another driver of the growth in the industry is the aging Baby Boom population who are more likely to need surgery as they get older. To save money, hospitals have started employing more surgical technologists rather than using more expensive labor (e.g. registered nurses) in the operating room. People with experience and a degree from an accredited program have the best job prospects.