What is a Typical Work Day Like for a Surgical Technologist?

A surgical technologist is an allied health care professional responsible for several aspects of making surgery safer in operating rooms, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. If you have thought about making a career switch into healthcare, this is an option that will allow you to work hands-on with patients and to begin working without going through four or more years of college. Even so, it’s a big decision, so before you make it find out more about this career, like what a typical day in the life of surgical tech is like.

Surgical Tech Duties

First, it’s important to understand what duties surgical technologists are responsible for on the job. These duties may vary somewhat from job to job but are generally similar for surgical techs everywhere:

  • Getting patients ready for procedures
  • Prepping the operating room for surgery
  • Ensuring equipment for surgery is working and ready
  • Gathering and sterilizing instruments for surgery
  • Passing instruments and supplies to surgeons during a procedure
  • Counting and inventorying surgical supplies

A Day in the Life

Every tech may have a slightly different experience, but a typical day or shift is similar across jobs. Most surgical technologists work in hospitals, but some work in physician offices or outpatient surgery centers. They may work shifts that are eight hours or longer.

Surgical techs just starting a shift will prepare by getting into scrubs. The next task is to determine the day’s schedule of surgeries. This may be done by simply checking a board outlining procedures and staff working each one, or it there may be a briefing meeting to get the shift started. The briefing and board reading help the tech figure out what is needed for the upcoming surgeries, including supplies, instruments and equipment.

Next, the tech will take the preparatory actions necessary for the next procedure. They may also communicate with other staff, including nurses and other techs, to determine what preparations are already being done or still need to be done. Preparations may include gathering the supplies and instruments needed, sterilizing these, and checking on and positioning equipment in the operating room.

The surgical tech will then prepare the patient. This involves positioning the patient on the operating table and disinfecting the incision site. The tech may also be responsible for draping the patient and making sure the surgeon will be able to access the incision spot.

Often, the most time-consuming part of the day is actually assisting during the surgery. Some may be only an hour or less, but many surgical procedures are long, lasting for hours or all day. The tech stands near the surgeon and first assistant, handing them instruments as needed.

Once the surgery is complete the tech is usually responsible for dressing the incision site and getting the patient ready to move to the recovery area. The surgical tech takes an inventory of supplies and instruments to be sure none were left in the patient. He or she then sterilizes equipment and instruments and restocks the operating room and moves on to the next procedure.

How to Become a Surgical Technologist

The daily duties of a surgical tech are routine, but the patients and procedures are always changing. It’s an interesting career that directly benefits patients and people, but it can also be tiring and physically demanding. If you’re up for the challenge, the first stop in becoming a surgical tech is to find and enroll in a post-secondary training program.

Most states have no requirements for education or licensing for surgical technologists, but you will find that most employers want to hire those who have earned a certificate or two-year degree in surgical technology. After completing a program you can take the exam to become a nationally certified surgical tech. Within two years or less you will be ready to be hired by a hospital or surgery center.

A typical work day for a surgical technologist involves a lot of important work. As a surgical tech you’ll be responsible for duties that ensure patients are safe and are at a lower risk of getting an infection during a procedure. The patients change, but the work is always central to safety, and you’ll find being a surgical tech is both challenging and rewarding.

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