Become a Surgical Technologist

Surgical technology is an exciting career that gets you right into the operating room. It is hands-on work that includes prepping equipment and instruments, getting patients ready for surgery, assisting surgeons during procedures and cleaning up after surgery is complete. These professionals play an important role in helping surgeries go smoothly and also earn a great income, and all without needing a degree.

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What Surgical Technologists Do

Surgical techs are also known as operating room (OR) technicians. They are responsible for preparing the OR for surgeries, which includes keeping it clean and sterile and also sterilizing instruments and setting up needed equipment. During surgeries, techs assist by passing instruments and other supplies to the surgeon as needed. After surgeries are over, the tech is responsible for cleaning and getting the OR ready for the next procedure and restocking supplies.

A surgical technologist’s job is not just working with instruments and cleaning; it also involves working with patients. Techs get them ready for surgery, disinfecting the incision site and helping transport them to the OR, and they also move patients and sometimes dress the surgical incisions after surgery.

In their role working with patients, techs have the opportunity to make a real difference. Their work is important in helping surgeries go safely and smoothly, but they can also calm and help reassure patients who are nervous ahead of a procedure. After surgery, they are there to help patients as they wake up feeling confused or in pain. Find out more about the role of the surgical technologist.

Work Environment and Conditions

Most surgical technologists work in hospitals of all types, from small rural hospitals to large urban medical centers and specialty hospitals. A smaller percentage of techs work in physician offices, outpatient medical centers and ambulatory surgical centers, and dental offices.

Working conditions for surgical techs are physically demanding. They work on their feet for the majority of a shift, and they often have to move and lift equipment and instruments. Observing surgery is necessary in this career, so it is not for the faint of heart. Most techs work full-time schedules, often on shifts that are longer than eight hours and with weekends and evenings. They may have periods during which they are on call and have to come in at a moment’s notice.

How to Become a Surgical Technologist

Most states do not require certification for surgical technology, which leaves the requirements for getting a job to the employer. Very few hospitals or other employers will hire someone for this position without having completed an educational program, so the first step to getting into this career is to find a certificate or diploma program in surgical technology.

Many community and technical colleges offer a non-degree surgical technology program that may take between several months and two years to complete. These programs are important for teaching you the skills needed to do the job and proving to potential employers that you would be a valued member of the surgical team.

It is also important to consider certification, even if it is not required in your state. Many employers will only hire certified techs. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers CST (certified surgical technologist) certification. In order to achieve CST certification you have to pass the appropriate exam set by the NBSTSA. To be eligible to take the exam you must have proof of completion of an accredited educational program.

Outlook for Surgical Technology Careers

Growth in all kinds of healthcare careers is increasing rapidly, and that includes surgical technology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth over the ten years to 2030 is expected to be 9 percent, opening up thousands of new positions. Of course, conditions in your area may vary.

Pay is also good for surgical techs, with the average hourly rate at $23.90, as of May 2020, and the average annual salary at $49,710. There is room for more experienced techs to earn more. The top 10 percent of earners in the field earn more than $73,110. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Working in surgical technology has a lot of benefits. Not only is this a growing career with a lot of opportunities and great pay, but it is also a rewarding, meaningful career that actually helps people every day. To become a surgical tech, you only need two years or less of training, so it’s an easy field to enter if you are willing to put in the time.