How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Alabama
A surgical technologist is a member of a surgical team who works closely with the surgeon, surgical nurse, and other members of the team before, during, and after procedures. They may also be referred to as surgical techs, scrub techs, or operating room (OR) techs.
Some of the duties of a surgical tech include:
- Preparing the OR with surgical equipment and supplies
- Preparing patients for surgery
- Assisting the surgeon during surgery by handing the doctor medical instruments
- Monitoring the instrument count throughout surgery
- Transporting patients to and from the OR
- Re-stocking the OR after the last surgery
Surgical technology is not a regulated profession, meaning there are no laws nationally or statewide for becoming a surgical technologist. Therefore, it is left up to the employers to determine the requirements for working as a surgical technologist.
Some certifications can be taken for surgical technology. Holding certification is not required to work as a surgical tech in Alabama, but many employers prefer that surgical techs be certified. The minimum education requirement to work as a surgical tech in the state is a high school diploma or equivalent. Completing a surgical technologist certificate or degree program at a technical or community college is not required, but it is a requirement to take certification exams, and it gives students clinical experience as well.
Surgical Technology Programs in Alabama
To take the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) exam to become a certified surgical technologist (CST), you must first take a formal surgical technology program that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). In Alabama, eight colleges offer programs that are CAAHEP accredited, and seven offer ABHES-accredited programs. Below, you will find information about some of these programs.
Southern Union State Community College. The Opelika campus of Southern Union State Community College offers both an Occupational Certificate in Surgical Operating Room Technology and an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Technology. There is limited space in this program, but applications are accepted until all spots are filled. Students are advised to complete the general education courses before applying to the program. The certificate program can be completed in three semesters (between 36-49 credit hours), and the AAS degree can be completed in five semesters (between 64-73 credit hours). You must meet all the general admission requirements for Southern Union as well as meet the surgical technology program admission requirements. These requirements include:
- Attending a Health Sciences Information Session
- If already a student at Southern Union, having a minimum 2.0 GPA
- If a transfer student has a minimum 2.0 GPA
- Submitting all high school and post-secondary transcripts before admission
- Passing English 101, Math 100, and the college reading requirement
- Applying to the Surgical Technology Program
- Meeting the conditions of the policies addressed in the student handbook
Upon completion of either the certificate or AAS degree program, the NBSTSA CST exam can be taken by the student at the Southern Union campus.
- Meeting all Calhoun Community College admission requirements
- Applying online to the surgery technology program
- Enrolling in or having completed English Composition 1, Intermediate College Algebra and Medical Terminology with a C or higher average in each (For an AAS degree, these classes must be completed before the surgical tech classes can be taken.)
- Attending a program information session
- Completing a Manual Dexterity Exam while attending fall classes
Students completing either program are qualified to take the NBSTSA CST exam.
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Completed the general admission requirements to Bevill State
- Completed the COMPASS placement exam with acceptable math, reading and writing scores or scored a minimum compound 16 on the ACT
While in the program, students must complete a minimum of 120 clinical cases, and 30 of those cases must be in general surgery. The remaining 90 cases can be any other surgical specialty; however, only 15 cases can be completed in a specific specialty other than general. Upon completion of the program the student will be ready to take the NBSTSA CST exam.
Surgical Technologist Certification in Alabama
In the United States, the NBSTSA is the nationally accepted certification program for surgical technologists. A CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited surgical technology education program must be completed before taking the NBSTSA certification exam. This certification exam is not mandatory, but it would be a wise choice to take it and become a CST. More job opportunities and a higher salary may be available to those who are certified.
In Alabama, you can find testing locations to take the NBSTSA exam in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. To pass the exam, you must answer 119 of the 200 questions on the exam correctly. The exam fee is $190 for Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) members and $290 for non-AST members. Certification must be renewed every four years. You can renew this certification by one of two methods: by renewing through continued education or by retaking and passing the certification exam every four years. To renew through continued education, you must take at least 60 education credits during the four years between certifications. Most people choose to renew through continued education because retaking the exam means paying the exam fee again every four years in addition to the renewal fee.
Another certification that is not required but is recommended is basic life support (BLS) for health care providers, including training in CPR and AED. These classes can usually be taken locally.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
In 2020, there were 1,920 surgical technologists employed in the state of Alabama, according to data supplied by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of surgical techs working in the state is predicted to increase by 7 percent by the year 2030. The highest concentration of jobs for surgical technologists in Alabama can be found in the cities of Anniston, Jacksonville, and Oxford.
As of May 2021, surgical technologists in the state of Alabama were earning an average of $18.20 hourly and $37,850 annually. Surgical Technologists in the state who are certified and have more educational and work experience can potentially earn as much as $55,990 per year.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Alabama
Surgical technologists in Alabama are most often found working in the surgical wing of hospitals. Other settings where surgical techs may find work include children’s hospitals, cosmetic surgery centers, and specialty clinics that may perform surgical procedures.
Most surgical technologists assist with various types of surgery. However, after working as a surgical tech for a while, you may decide that you are more comfortable in one area of surgery. Just as surgeons pick a specialty, a surgical tech may pick a specialty as well. Some specialties include general surgery, ob/gyn, urology, plastics, and neurology.
In Alabama, surgical technologists can find work in hospitals in cities such as Birmingham, Cullman, Mobile, Montgomery, and Phenix City. However, even most rural towns have a hospital nearby. Even if you choose to complete a formal training program and become nationally certified, you can still be ready to work at hospitals or clinics in the state as a surgical technologist within two years or less.