Also called operating room technicians, surgical technologists make a difference in people’s lives by assisting in surgical procedures and contributing to positive surgical outcomes. Surgical technologists may work alongside physicians, surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2012 there were 98,500 surgical technologists employed across the United States. The BLS also stated that employment opportunities for those in this field are expected to increase by 30% by 2022.
Surgical Technologist Job Duties
Working alongside physicians and surgeons, surgical technologists make sure that everything flows smoothly in the operating room. They may prep the room before the patient even enters and then check in with the patient prior to the operation. In addition to assisting in the room, surgical technologists may also handle specimens taken for laboratory analysis as well as apply bandages or dressings to the patients’ incision site. Among other duties they perform may include:
- Prepare operating room for surgery.
- Sterilize equipment and ensure there are enough supplies.
- Prepare patients for surgery.
- Assist surgeons during surgery, and pass them instruments.
- Transfer patients to the recovery room.
Surgical Technologist Education
Surgical technologists typically require some post-secondary education experience. Available education programs include diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs, most of which range in length from several months to two years. Community colleges, vocational schools, and hospitals offer these types of programs. Currently, there are about 500 surgical technologist training programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) in the United States. Coursework may include medical terminology, pharmacology, biology, anatomy, and health law. You may also gain hands-on experience in supervised clinical settings where you learn how to set up technical or robotic surgical equipment.
Surgical Technologist Certification
Employers may seek out individuals who possess certification in this industry. However, some states may regulate surgical technologists and requirements may vary. Two credentialing organizations offer certification, both of which require individuals to complete continuing education courses to maintain certification, and these organizations include:
- National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) – This organization offers the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. To obtain this, individuals must complete an accredited formal education program and passing the examination.
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) – Individuals who seek certification as a Tech in Surgery-Certified must pass an examination. Prior to that, there are several prerequisites they must fulfill, and some examples include finishing an accredited education program, and having work experience.
Most surgical technologists work full-time in hospitals, outpatient care centers, or offices of physicians who perform outpatient surgery. Due to this, you may be on call during weekends, nights, and holidays. Surgical technologists may also work shifts longer than eight hours. They may also be near communicable diseases and objectionable odors, materials, and sights. This physically demanding job may require individuals to stand for long times as well as be able to help move patients and heavy equipment.
Surgical Technologist Salary
According to the BLS in 2013, the mean annual salary of surgical technologists was $44,420 while the mean hourly salary was $21.36. The highest-paying state is California with the annual mean salary of $57,790 and hourly mean salary of $27.78. The top-paying industries in this occupation include home healthcare services, health practitioners’ offices, educational facilities, and family service organizations. In addition to geographic location and place of work, other factors that may affect salary include experience, certification, and education.