How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Tennessee
Tennessee law defines a surgical technologist as a professional working under the supervision of physicians and nurses to support and make surgical procedures safer and more effective. A surgical tech is an allied healthcare worker who directly assists surgeons and others, before, during and after surgeries with real patients. This is a hands-on, important job that includes maintaining sterilization of instruments, setting up equipment and working in the operating room. It takes just a year or two of coursework to begin working in this exciting career in Tennessee. [En Español]
Difference Between Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
Before you begin your journey to become a surgical technologist in Tennessee, it’s important to understand the difference between this career and similar ones such as surgical assisting. Surgical technology is a main focus of care before, during, and after surgery while assisting focuses on providing direct assistance to the surgeon during procedures. Both roles require knowledge and understanding of the surgical process and use specialized equipment.
Requirements for Surgical Technologists in Tennessee
Most states do not have any specific training or certification requirements for people who work as surgical techs, but Tennessee is an exception. Here you must meet just one of the following requirements in order to work in this role:
- Have valid and current national certification as a surgical technologist through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
- Complete a post-secondary educational program in surgical technology accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Complete training in surgical technology as a member of the armed forces
- Pass the NBSTSA surgical technologist certification examination
As of 2013 Tennessee law also requires that employed surgical technologists complete 15 hours of continuing education coursework every year to remain eligible to hold that position.
Unless you served in the military and trained there as a surgical technologist, you will need to go through the NBSTSA for certification, which requires the completion of an accredited training program. Certification is awarded when you successfully complete a CAAHEP-accredited program, earning a certificate or an associate degree, and after you pass the national certification exam.
In order to maintain valid NBSTSA certification, you need to complete approved continuing education courses. The certification must be renewed every four years, and for renewal to be accepted you must have completed 15 credits per year. To work as a surgical technologist in Tennessee through the certification requirement, you must show proof valid NBSTSA certification to your employer once a year.
Surgical Technology Programs in Tennessee
Certification through the NBSTSA is not strictly required to work as a surgical technologist in Tennessee. You can be eligible to work in the field after completing a program accredited by CAAHEP, with or without subsequent certification. There are several schools in the state that offer accredited programs:
- Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Knoxville. The surgical technology program at TCAT Knoxville is a full-time load of courses that should take just 12 months to complete. It confers diplomas and prepares graduates to pass the certification exam. Students will spend six months in a clinical setting. The cost of tuition and fees for the program is $3,753, and the cost of books and supplies is $1,721.
- Concorde Career College, Memphis. Students in Memphis can complete the 12-month surgical technology program at Concorde. The coursework includes classroom learning and training in patient care, sterilization of equipment and surgical assistance, as well as hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
- Nashville State Community College, Nashville. This accredited program offers students the chance to earn a certificate and to be prepared to earn national certification in surgical technology. In addition to classes on campus, students will complete three courses in an externship, working hands-on with patients and medical professionals.
Allied Health Education Programs in Tennessee
Tennessee also offers a number of other allied health education programs, including medical assisting, nursing and pharmacy technician. These jobs provide great opportunities to those interested in healthcare but who don’t want to spend years of study becoming doctors or nurses.
Accreditation of allied health programs in Tennessee is overseen by CAAHEP, which is an independent agency that evaluates the quality of healthcare education programs. Graduates from accredited schools are eligible to sit for the certification exam for their field and to become certified professionals. Certification can help graduates stand out from the competition when seeking employment and may improve opportunities for promotions and pay raises.
Tennessee is a great state for anyone looking for an entry-level career in the medical field. With its wide variety of accredited programs, Tennessee can offer you the chance to find a career that is satisfying and rewarding.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The number of positions for qualified surgical technologists is growing rapidly, throughout the country and in Tennessee. National job growth in the field is 6 percent. In Tennessee, the number of employed surgical techs is expected to rise from 2,720 in 2020 to 3,200 in 2030, a growth rate of 18% percent. Those new positions will need to be filled by the students training right now.
If you are hoping to become a surgical technologist in Tennessee, you have job security to look forward to and a good salary. The average hourly salary for these professionals in 2021 was $22.60, and the average annual income was $47,000. Salaries are higher for certified techs and those with more years of experience.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Tennessee
The greatest opportunities for employment for surgical techs in the state are in the major population centers of Nashville and Memphis. Most surgical technologists are employed by hospitals, but other employers may include physician or dental offices that perform minor surgical procedures and ambulatory surgical centers. With just a year of training, and certification if you choose it, you can begin working in this rewarding career helping keep patients safer in operating rooms.
A certified surgical technologist can be a valuable addition to any medical team, and if you are looking for an entry-level position with opportunity for growth in Tennessee, this could be the perfect career for you. With accredited programs throughout the state, it’s easy to get started on your new career path today.