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What is Surgical Technology?
Surgical technology is an area of study and employment that is responsible for assistance during surgeries. Surgical technologists will prepare operating rooms, arrange and organize equipment, and assist doctors and nurses during surgeries. Surgical technologists are present during surgeries, offering support and assistance, but not actually working with the patient. Technologists may also assist in the care and delivery of samples taken during surgery. All work performed by a surgical technologist will be under the supervision of qualified medical professionals.
What is a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)?
A surgical tech or certified surgical tech performs a number of key tasks before, during, and after surgeries to ensure proper flow and patient care is met in the operating room. A surgical tech makes sure patients are greeted, prepped, and properly positioned in the operating room along with making sure all necessary medical instruments are readily available and sterile prior to any surgical procedure. During a surgical event, CST’s will work to optimize medical equipment and lighting for maximum utility for the surgical team. A surgical tech will work to anticipate the needs of the surgical team and make equipment readily available and actively assist in procedures by holding instruments, sponging, preparing specimens, and dressing wounds. At the completion of a medical procedure, a surgical tech cleans the operating room and works to sterilize the area and can be available as patients wake from the procedure to provide comfort and counsel.
How Do You Become a Surgical Tech?
In order to begin work as a certified surgical technologist or surgical tech you will need to follow a set of steps to get the most out of your Surgical Tech career. The steps to optimize your knowledge and vocational growth include:
- Earn a Degree or Certificate from a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited college or university
- Obtain your CST or Certified Surgical Technologist from a reputable organization like the NBSTSA
- Earn your TS-C or Tech in Surgery-Certified from an organization such as the NCCT
- Keep your certificates active by taking continuing education courses at an interval mandated by your state of residence and taking the CST recertification every four years.
The first step in the process is to earn a certification or degree from an accredited college or university. The two most common accreditation bodies for a CST program are the CAAHEP or the ABHES. The CAAHEP stands for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs is the largest accreditation body in the health sciences professional trade providing independent accreditation for 2,100 individual education programs and nearly three dozen different occupations. The ABHES is the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools is recognized by the United States Secretary of Education as a private, non-profit accrediting body since its inception in 1969.
Why choose an accredited surgical tech program? It is recommended to select a college or university that offers an accredited surgical technology program as it ensures employers the academic program provides students with a high educational standard in medical, surgical, and technical studies requisite to succeed in the operating room. Accredited colleges and universities must renew their accreditation perpetually which further adds credibility to the school’s ability to meet or exceed academic standards necessary for such academic programs.
Next, you should consider earning your surgical tech certificate from a nationally recognized organization like the NBSTSA. As an example, the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting provides a certification for Surgical Techs that is an industry standard. Successfully taking and passing the NBSTSA examination qualifies you to become a Certified Surgical Technologist or CST that is sought after by employers and hiring managers across the nation.
Earning a designation of TS-C may be a valuable step in your education as the additional examination required to obtain the TS-C designation demonstrates to current and future employers a mastery in your trade. A testing organization such as the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers an industry leading credential for passing the TS-C exam for showing mastery in antiseptic procedures, medical terminology, equipment sterilization, and surgical care.
The final step in the process is for surgical techs to adopt a mentality of lifelong learning as you will be required to perform continuing education credits along with an intermittent recertification. Remaining curious and learning about your trade perpetually will make the continuing education and recertification process an easier item to fold into your existing schedule.
Surgical technology requires study through either a community college or trade school, and typically takes between two months and two years to complete, and results in either a certificate or degree. These programs provide the education and information necessary in order to operate as professionals within a surgical environment, exposing individuals to the various equipment and tools they must be familiar with in order to perform their tasks without error. Additional certification is also available, providing additional training and proof of competency.
A curriculum may include:
- Medical and Surgical Terminology
- Medical Terminology
- Fundamentals of Surgical Technology & Sterilization
- Pharmacology of Surgical Technology
- General & Peripheral Vascular Surgery
- Obstetrics & Gynecological Surgery
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Cardiovascular Surgery
- Surgical Safety
Difference Between a Surgical Tech and Surgical Assistant?
The best way to think about the difference between a surgical technologist and surgical assistant is by understanding the duties and responsibilities of each. A surgical assistant will perform many, if not all, of the duties of a surgical tech plus additional surgical activities in the operation room. The additional hands-on activities of a surgical assistant may include helping surgeon’s with suturing, suctioning, hemostasis, sponging, and similar medical procedures.
In order to become a surgical assistant, a surgical technologist or certified surgical technologist will need to complete additional training and academic work. Both the National Surgical Assistant Association and the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers a certification examination targeted for surgical technologist practitioners a path to become a certified surgical assistant (CSA) or certified first surgical assistant (CSFA) for qualified candidates. Progressing from a surgical tech to a surgical tech or first surgical assistant will allow you to further specialize in the field. The areas of specialty are numerous for a surgical assistant that can include vascular, neurology, and cardiothoracic to name a few.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities and Job Growth
Individuals seeking employment must be patient, dexterous and have high stamina. Individuals in this field will stand for hours during surgery and must quickly provide whatever assistance is required by the surgeon or nurse. Employment will be pursued at the at hospitals, clinics, or any other locations where surgeries are typically performed. The need for surgery technicians is expected to increase as public healthcare becomes more widely available, the population ages, and the need for medical professionals increases across the board. As a result there should be a marked increase in available positions for surgical technicians in the future.
Common Job Titles of a Surgical Technologist
In order to best prepare you for the exciting field of a surgical tech, you will be best served to understand a common set of job titles across the industry. Job titles may vary from region to region or by employer, which is why having a working list of job titles and their variations is a useful tool. A list of the most common job titles of a surgical tech include:
- Certified Surgical Tech/First Assistant
- Surgical Scrub Technologist (Surgical Scrub Tech)
- Surgical Technician
- Certified Surgical Technician
- Operating Room Technologist (OR Tech)
- Surgical Scrub Technician
- Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)
- Operating Room Surgical Technician (OR St)
- Operating Room Technician (OR Tech)
- Surgical Technologist (Surgical Tech)
Top Job Responsibilities of a Surgical Technologist
In a recent survey performed by the U.S. Department of Labor of surgical technologists, data reveals a number of key elements of the job. In addition to work styles, job titles, and attributes of surgical techs, the survey provided insight into daily activities of these professionals. The top 5 job responsibilities of a surgical tech include the following items:
- Extending technical assistance to surgical members such as surgical nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists
- Maintaining a sterile field during surgical procedures
- Properly preparing for surgery by scrubbing in and assisting other members of the surgical them with surgical clothing, masks, and gloves
- Accurately accounting for medical equipment and instruments before and after operation
- Helping patients prep for surgery, including positioning and applying sterile surgical drapes
Salary and Related Fields
The median annual income for a surgical technologists is $45,160 adding some 14,700 jobs in the coming decade. Increases in pay coming from working in more densely populated areas, having a higher level of education, or having demonstrable work experience. Certification will also assist in achieving higher wages. In addition, taking refresher courses is advised in order to keep pace with advances in surgical technology. The BLS forecasts a growth rate of 15% over the next decade which is more than twice the projected growth rate of all jobs during that time frame.
States with the Highest Employment of Surgical Technologists
- Texas 10,800
- California 9,750
- Florida 6,940
- New York 5,560
- Ohio 4,050
States with the Highest Employment for Surgical Technologists
- Nevada $60,640
- California $59,490
- District of Columbia $55,240
- Alaska $55,200
- Washington $55,000