If you have made the decision to take surgical tech courses and become a surgical technologist, you are probably excited about your future career. And now you’re looking to find out how to move forward and take the next steps to completing the courses and the requirements. Here you will find information on applying for surgical tech programs, information on prerequisites and recommended topics to study prior to entering a program, and even specialty areas within the field.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Surgical Technology is one of the fastest growing fields in medicine, which makes it a smart choice for your future employment. It also means that colleges and universities are expanding their surgical technology programs and options. There are various options open to you, including community and junior colleges, military, hospitals with structured programs, online programs, universities, and vocational or technical schools. At any of these institutions there will be basically two types of programs. According to the Association of Surgical Technologists, you can receive either an Associate’s Degree in Surgical Technology or Diploma/Certificate in Surgical Technology. The Associate’s Degree is a two-year program and the diploma/certificate takes between 9 and 15 months.
In addition to considering the type of program you’re applying for, you also want to consider a few more things when applying to schools. While it is not mandatory for a school to be accredited, you will have a better chance at employment and opportunity, if you get your degree or certificate from an accredited program. Accredited programs should have two components, which are having an instructional experience based on lecture and textbook and a clinical training experience with supervision. There are three different organizations that accredit surgical technology programs, and they are the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA), the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Educational Schools (ABHES). You can go to any of these organizations’ websites to download a list of schools they have accredited.
Another factor to consider in all of this is the online program. There are some online surgical tech courses and programs. With this type of program, though, you want to make sure you consider all potential advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages of online courses include the reduced cost and the flexible scheduling. Some of the disadvantages might be considering how this affects your ability to meet your clinical experience requirements and limited interaction with professors, staff, and peers who might be able to provide support throughout the program.
When you are ready to apply, you can apply online in many cases, or at least express interest and start the application process. Once you express interest, some programs may send you a packet to complete or have you complete the information online. They will be looking for you to have a high school diploma and preferably a background in certain courses. Some programs will have a separate class for students with no medical background and others will require students to take these prerequisites prior to beginning the surgical tech courses. Examples of these prerequisites include Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, English Composition, College Math, Psychology, and Medical Terminology.
Not only are colleges and employers looking for a background in certain science, math, and medical courses but also a background in personal and social skills. These skills they are looking for are things, such as being responsible, stable, quick and accurate, detail-oriented, having stamina and endurance for long hours through surgery, and being able to perform under pressure. You must be orderly, conscientious, and emotionally stable. Some programs are also looking for you to pass a manual dexterity test, which tests how quickly you are able to physically handle instruments and focus on the task at hand. As a surgical technologist, you are working very closely, right along with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and patients.
As a surgical tech, you will be doing much of the preparation for surgery. You will be setting up the operating room by setting up the instruments and equipment and making sure it’s working properly. You also sterilize instruments and equipment. In addition to the instruments and equipment, you are also responsible for checking on the patients and getting their charts and vital signs, positioning them on the operating table, washing and shaving them, and draping them. And you are also the one helping the other members of the surgical team put their sterile gloves and gowns on. These are some of the things you will learn about in your courses and see in your clinical experiences.
While considering your role in these courses, you should also be considering whether or not you might want to specialize. Surgical techs can also specialize and choose to work in a medical specialty field, such as neurosurgery, open heart surgery, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or even organ transplantation. You could also be what’s known as a circulating technologist. This person has many jobs in the operating room. He or she might prepare the patient, open packages, talk to the patient before surgery, help with anesthesia, keep a written account of the surgical procedure, and basically be the unsterile member of the team. And, with additional coursework and training, you can become a first assistant. This person can help in surgery with sponging, cauterizing, suturing, retracting, and closing wounds. These surgical techs can even take jobs at sterile supply companies, operating equipment firms, and insurance companies. There are many different jobs within the field of surgical technology for you to consider.
As you can see, there is a great deal to consider when planning your career as a surgical technologist. You have many options regarding programs, courses, specialties, and even locations throughout the country to find a job. Employment in this field is growing faster than the average so you will have many choices upon completion of your program. Surgical tech courses offer you a wide range of options with a promise of a stable career and financial future.