How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Wisconsin
Surgical technologists play an important role in ensuring patient safety by preparing and sterilizing operating rooms and assisting surgeons during procedures. They help make sure operations go smoothly and that surgeons can do their jobs well. If this sounds like an interesting career to you, a short post-secondary training program is all you need to get started as a surgical tech in Wisconsin. [En Español]
Difference between Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
In Wisconsin, surgical technology and surgical assisting are two distinct professions. A surgical technologist (also known as an operating room technician) is responsible for preparing sterile instruments and equipment in the operating room before surgery, positioning patients on the operating table, prepping patients for surgery, passing instruments to surgeons during operations, and suturing incisions when needed. They may also monitor patient vital signs during surgery and act as a scrub nurse, working closely with the surgeon to assist with the procedure.
Surgical assistants, meanwhile, are licensed professionals who have completed an accredited program. Surgical assistants in Wisconsin can perform many of the same duties as surgical technologists, but they are able to carry out more complex tasks such as closing incisions, providing direct patient care, and performing diagnostic tests.
Requirements for Working as a Surgical Tech in Wisconsin
There are no official minimal requirements for training, education, or licensing for surgical technologists in Wisconsin. It is up to employers, usually hospitals, to determine the basic requirements for hiring these allied health professionals. While the state doesn’t regulate this career, many employers will only hire those surgical techs with a degree or certificate and sometimes will also require national certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).
NBSTSA Certification for Surgical Technologists
You do not have to become certified to work as a surgical tech in Wisconsin, but achieving certification may be a requirement for many employers. The NBSTSA certifies professional surgical technologists through an exam. To qualify for the exam you must complete an educational program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Once you have become a certified surgical technologist you will be required to complete 15 credit hours or more of continuing education credits. With this condition met you can renew the certification every four years to keep it up to date.
Surgical Technology Programs in Wisconsin
To become nationally certified through the NBSTSA you need to enroll in and complete an accredited post-secondary program. It can be a one-year certificate program or a two-year degree program as long as it has the appropriate accreditation. Some options in Wisconsin include:
- Gateway Technical College, Kenosha. Gateway’s surgical technologist program confers an associate degree and takes two years to complete with 65 credits of coursework. That coursework includes several clinical courses in which students get hands-on work experience under supervision.
- Waukesha County Technical College, Pewaukee. The Waukesha program is also a two-year associate degree program in surgical technology. The 68 credits of coursework include clinical work experience with a minimum of 120 separate cases. These include both general surgery and a range of specialties. All graduates of the program in 2016 and 2017 passed the NBSTSA certification exam.
- Milwaukee Career College, Milwaukee. Students in Milwaukee can earn an associate degree in surgical technology in less than two years. Milwaukee’s program includes classroom learning as well as clinical experience in area hospitals.
Allied Health Education Programs in Wisconsin
In addition to formal programs, students can also get their start in surgical technology through more informal allied health education pathways. Several Wisconsin schools offer such programs as a way of introducing students to the profession and preparing them for further study if desired. Examples include:
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Allied Health Sciences has an associate degree program in nursing and allied health technology.
Madison Area Technical College’s Allied Health program can get you up to speed with the basics of surgical technology and prepare you for more advanced training.
Chippewa Valley Technical College offers a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Patient Care Technician (PCT) program that includes instruction in some of the basic elements of surgical technology.
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College offers an Allied Health program that includes a range of healthcare topics such as medical terminology, communication in healthcare, and patient care.
No matter which path you choose to pursue a career in surgical technology, Wisconsin has plenty of potential options for getting started. Once you have your degree or formal training, you can become certified and get to work as a professional surg tech in Wisconsin.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Growth in surgical technology careers in Wisconsin is strong, with the number of available positions increasing by six percent each year. In 2020, 2,610 surgical techs were working in the state, while in 2030 there are projected to be 2,730. This means there will be many more positions that will need to be filled by the students who are training right now.
Surgical technologists earn a good living and enjoy great job security in Wisconsin. The average hourly pay for surgical techs in 2021 was $28.42, while the average annual salary was $59,120. This is significantly higher than the national average salary for this profession.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Wisconsin
Hospitals are the largest employers of surgical technologists, but they are also employed by ambulatory and outpatient surgical centers and physician offices or dental offices in which minor surgical procedures are performed.
Entry-level positions often include assisting with the preparation of the operating room and making sure all the necessary equipment is available for the surgeon and his team. As a surgical tech gains experience, he or she may be given more responsibility in helping to set up procedures and even in assisting during surgery.
You will find the most job opportunities at Wisconsin’s largest hospitals and in and around the big population centers of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Kenosha. There are no state-level requirements for getting into this career, but the best way to land a great job in surgical technology is to start with a college training program.
Residents of Wisconsin may also wish to review their options in Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois.