If you’re looking for an exciting career in the expanding health services field, read this surgical tech job description to find if it might be the right career for you.
What is a surgical tech?
Surgical technologists, also known as operating room technicians, help in all aspects of surgery — preparing tools and equipment, preparing patients for operations, ensuring the operating room itself is ready for the procedure, and even directly assisting doctors and nurses during the procedure itself.
What duties to surgical techs have before an operation?
Surgical techs are responsible for preparing an operating room for a procedure before any patients, doctors, or nurses even enter the room. Some regular pre-procedure duties for surgical techs include:
- Preparing and sterilizing medical instruments
- Calibrating equipment and machinery to ensure it works properly during surgery
- Preparing solutions and other necessary medical materials
- Readying patients for surgery and moving them into the operating room
- Positioning patients properly on the operating table
- Disinfecting and preparing areas of the patient’s body for the procedure
- Helping nurses and doctors put on sterile surgical gowns and masks
What duties do surgical techs have once the operation begins?
Once the room is prepared and the procedure is ready to begin, surgical techs still have an important role. Surgical techs continue to assist in the procedure by providing requested tools and equipment to doctors and nurses. They may also be required to apply dressings or prepare and transport fluids and other specimens from the patient for further laboratory research.
When the surgery is complete, a surgical tech will often transport the patient to the recovery room, then return to the operating room to restock supplies and ensure the operating room is ready for the next procedure.
How do I become a surgical technician?
Certain states and jurisdictions in the United States require certification to work as a surgical tech. Many other states do not require certification; however, it can be difficult to find work as a surgical tech without certification as proof of both book and real world knowledge of the challenging and intense experience of working in an operating room.
An individual wishing to become a certified surgical tech can take a few different paths. Many technical or vocational schools offer surgical tech certification programs, as do many community colleges. These programs can take anywhere from a number of months to a couple of years to successfully complete, and provide an associate’s degree or a certification from an organization recognized for training of surgical techs at the completion of the program.
Organizations offering certification for surgical techs include:
- National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting awards a certification of “Certified Surgical Technologist”
- National Center for Competency Testing awards a certification of “Tech in Surgery – Certified”
- National Healthcare Association (NHA) awards a certification of “Certified Operating Room and Surgical Technician” (CORST), which can only be achieved with completion of a previous accredited training program, or one year of real-world experience
In order to keep certifications current, some form of continuing education or reexamination is usually required on a periodic basis. Many surgical techs take the necessity for continuing health education to further their careers by training to become surgical assistants, physician’s assistants, or even registered nurses.
What are employers looking for in a surgical tech?
Most surgical techs are employed by hospitals, though some may also work in outpatient surgery centers which focus only on surgical procedures, rather than the wide variety of health services hospitals provide. Some are also be employed by outpatient care centers, or dentist’s offices. Most employers will be looking for some sort of certification or degree before considering hiring a surgical tech, but which certifications are important for a specific employer will vary from hospital to hospital and region to region. The more certifications, degrees, and real world work experience a candidate has, the better their chances of being hired and commanding a higher salary once employed.
In addition to degrees, certifications and work experience, employers will also be interested in some other skills that might not be prominent on a resume, including:
- Reliability and attention to detail. In an operating room environment, lives are on the line. While the surgeons are most directly responsible for the well being of a patient, the surgical tech must ensure that the doctors and nurses are provided the proper tools and equipment in a timely and mistake-free manner to minimize lost time and the potential for costly mistakes.
- Stress management skills. An operating room is a tense environment, and surgical techs should be able to work under pressure without sacrificing the quality of their work.
- Stamina. Surgeries can be long, taxing affairs for surgical techs. A surgical tech should be able to stay on their feet and remain at the top of their game for long periods of time.
What does the job market look like for surgical techs?
Like many health care employees, surgical techs are in demand and that demand will only increase in the coming years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for surgical technologists will increase by 19% between 2010 and 2020. As technology continues to improve, the number of surgeries performed in the United States continues to increase, as well as the number performed in outpatient surgery centers. Surgical techs are necessary to fulfill this increased demand for surgical procedures.
In 2010, the median annual salary for surgical techs was $39,920 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with obvious difference depending on geographical location and levels of experience and certification. This amount is significantly higher than the median across all occupations of $33,840. Most surgical techs work full time, and may be required to work or be on call odd hours, given the nature of the medical field and surgery in particular.
Surgical technologist is an in demand career that has a direct impact on the lives and health of others. It can be a gateway to other, more advanced medical careers, or serve as a lifelong employment opportunity that pays well and will never fall out of demand. If you have any other questions that weren’t answered by this surgical tech job description, you may want to inquire with local accredited training programs for more specific answers.