How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Washington
Surgical technologists, also called surgical techs or scrub techs, are responsible for patient care and assisting other members of the surgical team before, during, and after surgery. Some examples of job duties for a surgical tech are making sure the operating room (OR) is clean, sterile, and stocked for surgery, prepping the patient for surgery, transporting them to the OR and positioning them on the table for surgery, counting instruments and supplies and passing them to the surgeon or first assistant as needed during surgery, taking the patient to recovery after surgery, and cleaning, sterilizing and restocking the OR between surgeries. Surgical techs often report to the director of nursing at the hospital or clinic they work in. [En Español]
In Washington, a surgical technology license or certification is not required to work, but surgical technologists do have to register with the Washington State Department of Health. Many employers in the state prefer to hire surgical technologists who are certified, and it is a requirement of some employers. Furthermore, basic life support (BLS) and CPR certification are required to work in most hospitals and clinics throughout Washington.
As for educational requirements, a high school diploma or its equivalent is a requirement to work most anywhere in the state. Completing a surgical technology program that is accredited is also a requirement if you are planning to become a certified surgical technologist (CST).
Difference between Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
Surgical technology and surgical assisting are two different professions. Surgical technologists assist surgeons during the entire procedure, from prepping the patient to cleaning up after surgery is complete. They also help with the sterilization of instruments and supplies as well as providing general care to the patient before, during, and after the surgery. Surgical assistants typically perform specific tasks delegated by the surgeon, such as preparing supplies for the surgery, providing instrumentation, and retracting tissue. They are also not allowed to close incisions or be involved in any post-operative care.
Surgical Technologist Registration and Certification in Washington
Before working as a surgical technologist in Washington, you must first register through the Washington State Department of Health. To apply to register, you must do the following:
- Provide your social security number
- Pass a background check
- Pay the $70 application fee
- List all states where you currently hold or have previously held credentials
- Answer personal data questions
- Complete HIV/AIDS training
Surgical technologists in Washington must renew their registration every year to remain current. There are no continued education requirements for renewal.
Certification is also not required, but many Washington healthcare providers prefer to hire certified surgical technologists (CSTs). To obtain the certification you will need to take the exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Before taking the exam, you will need to complete an accredited surgical technology program. Members of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) pay a $190 fee to take the NBSTSA exam, while the exam fee for non-members is $290.
This certification must be renewed every four years by taking 60 credit hours of continued education before you apply for renewal or by retaking the exam. A renewal fee will apply, and if you choose to take the exam again you will have to pay to do that also. In Washington, the exam can be taken in Bellingham, East Wenatchee, Everett, Federal Way, Kennewick, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver, and Yakima.
Surgical Technology Programs in Washington
Washington has 17 schools that offer either certificate or degree programs in surgical technology that are accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Graduating from one of these programs will enable you to take the NBSTSA exam.
- Bellingham Technical College. The Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree program at Bellingham Tech takes in new students once a year in the fall semester. This program consists of 108 credit hours. Forty-eight of these hours consist of pre-requisite general education courses, and the remaining credit hours are program courses and clinical hours that are taken over three semesters. To be admitted to this program students must complete a Test of Essential Academic Skills exam with passing scores in reading, mathematics, science and English. They must also pass a placement test in Reading and Math. Other admission requirements include:
- Completing a program application
- Passing a background check and drug screen
- Providing any transcripts and high school diploma and GED
- Being 18 or older
- Passing a physical exam and have current immunizations
- Holding current BLS and CPR certification
- Having current medical insurance
This program has a 97 percent job placement rate after graduation, and 100 percent of students who take this program pass their NBSTSA exam.
- Seattle Central College. Seattle Central College also offers an AAS degree program in surgical technology that can be completed in 15 months. Pre-requisite courses that must be taken and passed with a 2.0 GPA or higher before entering the surgical technology program are: Math, Statistics, Medical Terminology, Human Anatomy & Physiology, General Psychology, Lifespan Psychology and English.
- Spokane Community College. Spokane Community College offers prospective surgical technologists an AAS degree program in surgical technology. This program consists of 92 credit hours, which can usually be completed in two years but must be completed in three years. A 2.0 GPA or higher must be maintained in program-specific courses before students can complete the next semester of the program. Students start in the fall semester and are accepted from a wait list. Other admission requirements to the program include:
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Passing a placement test in Math and English
- Passing the prerequisite classes: Biology, Math and Computer Information
- Passing a background check
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
Job growth in the surgical technology field is steady across the country, and Washington is no exception. There is an expected growth increase of 18% in this field in the state of Washington. In 2020, 2,300 surgical technologists were employed in the state. With the predicted job field growth, at least 2,710 surgical techs should be working in Washington by the year 2030.
Surgical technologists in Washington make an average of $28.86 an hour, or $60,020 annually. Surgical techs who have a certificate or degree and are certified can potentially earn more than the annual average. The highest earners in this field in the state of Washington can make as much as $76,950 per year.
Salary Range for Surgical Technologists
|Area||10th percentile||25th percentile||Median||75th percentile||90th percentile|
Salaries in Washington by Region
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA||270||$26.37||$54,850|
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Washington
You will most often find surgical technologists working in the surgical wing of hospitals. However, they may also find work in surgery centers, birthing centers, and plastic surgery clinics. In Washington, larger cities, such as Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, and Bellevue, are most likely to have more job openings. Some places you may consider for employment in Washington are Providence Health & Services, Swedish Medical Center, and Aureus Medical Group.
If you are interested in working as a surgical technologist in Washington, now is the time when the growth rate is steadily climbing. In three years or less, you can complete a surgical technology program, sit for the NBSTSA exam, register as a surgical tech, and be prepared to work anywhere within the state.