Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||97,150|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.3%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||3,390|
What's needed: Surgical technologists must complete an accredited surgical technology program that varies in length from nine months to two years. Programs lead to a certificate or associate degree and are offered by colleges, vocational schools, and hospitals. The entrance requirement is usually a high school diploma or the equivalent. All accredited programs include internships in clinical settings for hands-on practice.
What you study: Study topics usually include:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Surgical procedures
- Surgical techniques
- Operating room sterilization and safety
- Medical terminology
- Patient care
A quick introduction into a surgical technologist career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a surgical technologist, you are a critical member of the surgical team. You ensure patient safety and directly assist surgeons, nurses, and other team members during surgery. You maintain the sterile field and set up instruments and equipment.
A typical day might begin with preparing and transporting the patient to the operating room while offering calm reassurance. You ready surgical instruments and gown and glove the surgical team. During the procedure, you pass instruments to the surgeon and suction incisions as directed. You constantly monitor the sterile field to maintain patient safety.
Depending on your team role, you may spend more time with patients, directly assisting with surgery, or maintaining the operating room. Your major duties are likely to be:
- Maintaining the sterile field in the operating room
- Stocking and arranging surgical instruments
- Assisting surgeons and nurses during procedures
- Taking patients to and from the operating room
- Preparing patients for surgery
If you are a circulating surgical technologist, you'll have more interaction with patients. You'll prepare patients for procedures, see to their comfort, and provide reassurance. In addition, you'll commonly perform these duties:
- Verifying patient charts and paperwork
- Procuring and maintaining supplies
- Recording information during surgery
- Handling specimens
As a second assisting surgical technologist, you'll directly assist in the surgical procedure. During surgery, you'll follow the surgeon's direction in performing tasks that don't involve manipulating tissue. Tasks include:
- Holding instruments
- Cutting sutures
- Suctioning surgical sites
- Dressing closed incisions
As you gain experience, the field offers opportunities to specialize in specific areas of surgery such as cardiovascular and obstetrics. If you work in an outpatient setting, you'll assist with lower-risk procedures such as cataract surgery.
Certifications and Licensing
Becoming certified is currently voluntary in most states. However, certification improves job and advancement opportunities and is in growing demand.
Certification involves successfully completing an approved educational program and passing a credentialing examination. The profession recognizes two main credentialing organizations. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers the Certified Surgical Technologist certification while the National Center for Competency Testing confers the Tech in Surgery – Certified.
Full-time versus part-time:
Surgical technologists work scheduled shifts that may sometimes include overtime. Due to the critical nature of surgery, they may also be on call or work evenings and weekends. Outpatient settings such as physician offices are more likely to observe regular weekday hours.
Most surgical technologists work on site with hospital surgical teams and spend much of their time in operating rooms. Others assist with outpatient surgery in clinics and medical offices.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook -- The site provides a factual overview of the surgical technologist profession. It's a good starting point for learning the basics about the field. Information is divided into sections on job duties, education, employment outlook and other fundamentals. Once you have a solid idea, build on it by exploring other websites that present the profession in richer detail.
- The Association of Surgical Technologists -- AST is the professional association for surgical technologists. The site offers a wealth of information about all aspects of the field and is an excellent resource for those considering the profession in more depth. Web sections provide detailed coverage of job duties, education and certification, and topics important to the surgical profession. The career center section offers searchable job listings, employment tips, and career development resources. To help you understand your education options, the site includes a list of accredited training programs.
- The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting -- This organization provides the most widely recognized certification for surgical technologists. The site's examinations section clearly explains the certification process. It also includes a comprehensive page on test information that covers everything from how to schedule an exam to options for military personnel on active duty.
- National Center for Competency Testing -- NCCT is an organization offering independent certification in surgical technology as well as other allied health fields. The site provides a well-organized and straightforward look at the credentialing process.