Surgical Technologists (surgical techs), also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They have an important responsibility to patients in maintaining a clean and sterile surgical environment while assisting nurses to prepare patients, and prevent diseases and infections.
The environment these professionals work in is fast paced and exciting. It can range from being in a delivery room with a family having their first child, to being in a packed emergency room after a multiple car accident. Every day in this job is different!
The majority of surgical techs work in hospitals. Others find employment in outpatient surgery centers or in offices of physicians who perform outpatient surgery. The day-to-day duties of a surgical tech include;
- Preparing the operating room for surgery
- Sterilizing equipment and making sure that the appropriate supplies are ready for surgery
- Preparing patients for surgery, including washing and disinfecting incision sites
- Assisting nurses and surgeons during the actual surgery by passing them the required instruments and supplies.
Surgical technologists work as part of a surgery team. Those interested in becoming surgical technicians must be able to respond well and think clearly in emergency and stressful situations, have manual dexterity to handle instruments properly and quickly, must be able to follow directions well, and must practice good hygiene. They are typically on their feet for extended periods of time and must be able to lift and move heavy objects.
A career as a surgical tech is not one for those with a weak stomach. You will be exposed to many unpleasant sounds, sights, and smells in the operating room. You will also be exposed to communicable diseases and hazardous materials.
Surgical technologists working in hospitals can expect to work shifts that last longer than eight hours and include night, weekend and holiday hours.
Education and Beyond
To become a Certified Surgery Technologist you must first attend an accredited school. Surgical technology training programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which is necessary for obtaining certification.
There are different training options ranging from 9 months to 2 years that can lead to a diploma, certificate or associates degree. Programs are offered through vocational schools, junior colleges, community colleges or medical training colleges. The cost of the programs will vary according to the type of school as well as the degree you want to attain. For an associate’s degree the average tuition and fees ranges from $11,000 to $16,000. Read about financial aid options that may be beneficial to you.
Some of the coursework included in a Surgical Technologist degree includes; anatomy, physiology, microbiology, medical terminology, patient care and safety, sterilization techniques, and surgical procedures.
In Florida, it is not required that a surgical technologist be certified, however the majority of employers give more credibility to candidates who have achieved national professional certification. Certifications are provided by a number of organizations, including the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, and the National Center for Competency Testing. In order to maintain certification, you must earn 60 continuing education credits over a four-year certification cycle. You can opt to retake the exam every four years rather than earning continuing education credits, but this requires that you pay the testing fees again.
Basic Life Support provider cards are required in this field. The American Heart Association provides this certification to healthcare professionals, like surgical technicians, to teach them to recognize a health emergency and the proper way to respond to it. The course teaches CPR and the use of automatic external defibrillators. It requires an online cognitive test and a skills test. Courses are also available through the American Heart Association.
The median annual salaries for select major cities in Florida fall slightly below the national average as shown below.
The employment of surgical technologists is expected to increase 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. With advances in medical technology, surgeries have become safer and more operations are being done to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. The aging of baby boomers is also expected to increase the need for surgical technologists due to operations including joint replacements and heart-related procedures.
Opportunities for advancement beyond the career of surgical tech include becoming a surgical assistant, or you can choose to specialize in your area of interest. Roles in supervision or management are also an option for those who continue their education.