How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Illinois
A surgical technologist is a healthcare professional who works hands-on in the operating room, assisting surgeons and physicians. They prepare operating rooms and patients for procedures, maintain a sterile environment, and directly assist the surgeon during operations. If you think this might be a good career choice for you and you live in Illinois, consider starting with one of the state’s accredited surgical technology programs. [En Español]
Prerequisite Courses for Surgical Technologists in Illinois
To become a surgical technologist in Illinois, you’ll need to meet certain prerequisites. Most programs require that you have completed high school or a GED and have taken courses like biology, human anatomy, and physiology. Many schools recommend that students have experience working as a medical assistant or with another healthcare professional prior to applying.
Requirements for Working as a Surgical Tech in Illinois
Most states do not have minimum educational or licensing requirements for surgical technologists, and Illinois is no exception. The state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) registers certified surgical techs, but this is not required. It is up to individual employers to decide what qualifications are needed to hire a surgical technologist. However, you may have a better chance of being hired if you are registered with the state, as this proves you have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job.
Difference between Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
In some states, including Illinois, there is a difference between the duties of surgical technologists and surgical assistants. A surgical technologist typically handles more of the technical aspects of patient care, such as sterilizing instruments and setting up equipment for surgery. On the other hand, a surgical assistant is responsible for directly assisting the surgeon in surgical procedures, often by suturing wounds or providing support during procedures in the operating room. Both of these jobs are important, but usually require very different levels of knowledge and skill.
Registering as a Surgical Technologist in Illinois
To register in Illinois you must apply the IDFPR with all the supporting documentation that is required, as well as a $100 fee. There are several requirements you must meet to have your application accepted and to become registered:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Complete an accredited post-secondary surgical technology training program, or complete training while serving in the armed forces
- Achieve national certification by passing the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) exam
To become certified through the NBSTSA you must complete an educational program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). You must then take and pass the NBSTSA certification exam. This certification can be renewed every four years, but you must complete 15 or more credit hours of continuing education courses every year to qualify.
Surgical Technology Programs in Illinois
While completing a degree or certificate program is not strictly required for becoming a surgical tech in the state, getting that education is an important way to gain valuable knowledge and hands-on skills and to prove them to potential employers. There are several accredited programs in Illinois:
- Elgin Community College, Elgin. At Elgin, students can complete a certificate program in surgical technology that will prepare them for national certification and jobs in healthcare. Courses take about one year to complete and include basic science and healthcare classes as well as several levels of surgical technology practices.
- Malcolm X College, Chicago. The Malcolm X campus of the City Colleges of Chicago offers students an associate degree program in surgical technology that takes two years to complete. Students take 61 credit hours of coursework, including two courses in hands-on, clinical work experience.
- Parkland College, Champaign. At Parkland, students can learn to become surgical technologists through the classroom curriculum and hands-on clinical work. The program at Parkland was awarded NBSTSA’s Merit Award for having a 100 percent passing rate for graduates taking the national certification exam.
Allied Health Education Programs
This program is offered through the South Suburban College and consists of five courses in surgical technology theory. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared to take and pass the NBSTSA certification exam.
No matter which school you choose, you will be well on your way to becoming a certified surgical technologist in Illinois. With the right education and knowledge, you will have the skills necessary to be a valuable asset in any healthcare setting.
National Board of Surgical Technology in Illinois
The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) is the governing body that oversees all certified surgical technologists in Illinois. The NBSTSA provides certification for individuals who have completed a post-secondary program or training while serving in the armed forces, as well as those who have passed the NBSTSA exam. In addition to the certification process, the NBSTSA also sets standards for educational programs and continuing education requirements.
Certified Surgical Technologist Examination
The NBSTSA examination is divided into three parts: a written exam, a clinical performance exam, and an oral preceptor assessment. The written portion of the test covers topics such as asepsis, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and instrumentation. The clinical skills portion requires applicants to complete various tasks related to patient care and the operating room, while the oral preceptor assessment requires applicants to answer questions related to their experiences working in surgical settings.
Upon successfully passing the examination, applicants will receive national certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) from the NBSTSA. This certification is recognized across all 50 states and must be renewed every four years. Successful completion of the examination will also provide a credential to any potential employers in the state, demonstrating that you have the qualifications and experience necessary to work as a surgical technologist in Illinois.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to BLS, across the country, the growth in careers for qualified surgical technologists is strong at 6 percent. In Illinois, that growth is one percent higher, but it is still positive. Surgical technologists continue to be in demand in the state, and you can look forward to good job security as well as a good salary. The average annual salary for surgical techs in Illinois in 2021 was $48,420. There is a potential to earn a higher salary with more years of experience and depending on the employer.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Illinois
Nearly three-quarters of surgical technologists are employed by hospitals. They can also work in ambulatory surgery centers and physician or dental offices that perform surgical procedures. A surgical tech may rotate and work with a variety of surgeons or may specialize in one type of surgery, like obstetrics or pediatric surgery.
There are job opportunities for qualified surgical techs throughout Illinois, but the greatest number of jobs is in large cities, like Chicago and its suburbs. With a year or two of training and a passing score on the national certification exam, you will be ready to be hired by any of the hospitals in the state.
See options in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana.