Surgical tech jobs are in increasingly high demand and in this article, we’ll take a look at the role of the surgical technologist as well as what the career prospects looks like over the coming decade.
The role of the surgical technologist, or scrub, is to assist the surgeon in the operating room by keeping the surgical site as germ-free as possible. By employing surgical techs, hospitals are able to reduce the amount patients would have to pay to have more than one surgeon on their cases, also decreasing the complications of surgery that are more likely to occur if a surgeon works alone. Also, instead of paying surgeons, whose salaries are much greater than those of surgical techs, to clean and prepare the surgery room as well as the medical tools, hospitals can charge patients the lower rates that surgery techs demand for performing these tasks. Surgical techs demand less because they do not have to invest as much in meeting the qualifications of their job, which usually only requires candidates to complete a two-year associate’s degree or certification. Because surgical tech programs address a highly-specific position and its associated tasks, these programs produce highly-trained individuals who are better suited to the needs of both the patients and the surgeons they serve. Possessing some of the most in-demand skill sets of many hospitals in the United States today, surgical techs enjoy some of the best salaries and benefits that most two-year programs have to offer their students.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 93,600 surgical tech jobs in 2010, and their numbers have grown by at least a thousand in the two years since that figure was determined. While surgical techs in the past may have been able to secure these jobs without any higher education, the vast majority of employers currently require job candidates to complete and maintain some sort of accredited degree and certification in order to be considered for employment. Select employers have begun programs to help employees with student loans, however, so this field remains accessible to anyone who is willing and able to work through the challenging programs that the medical professions require of them to pass their certifications. Surgical techs work under supervision, but they are leaders as well, helping new personnel integrate into and become productive in their duties. Because of the importance of their role in the hospital, surgical techs spend most of the day on their feet, and the strenuous nature of their jobs means that any physical disabilities they have can interfere greatly with their levels of employability in this field.
With surgical tech jobs being integral to the many surgical departments and practices throughout the country, the number of these jobs has been increasing over the last several decades and is projected to continue growing in the years to come. One factor that has led to these increases is technology. As technology continues to evolve, diseases such as cancer have become more detectable, leading to more lifesaving surgeries being performed. Increasing numbers of surgeries means that the number of surgeons is stretched thin over the patient population, and more errors tend to occur due to oversights that can be remedied by bigger surgical teams. Thus, today’s busy hospitals create safer surgical environments by including surgical techs in their surgical teams to look after the environment, allowing surgeons and nurses to focus more on looking after their patients. Another factor involved in surgical tech job growth is the recently growing elderly population that includes the people born in the years between the mid-1940s and the early 1960s, known as the “boom” generations. Generally, as people age, they become more prone to different diseases and conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, which necessitate more operations on both the emergency level and the outpatient level of treatment. As boomers develop more age-related conditions, and as technology increases the number of conditions in general that are discovered, hospitals and clinics alike will need more and more experienced surgical techs to keep the surgical environment safe and clean.
While surgical tech jobs exist all over the world in various medical environments, surgical techs in the U.S. work primarily in urgent care clinics, hospital emergency rooms, and outpatient clinics. Emergency room surgical techs help ensure that procedures are both efficient and sterile so that patients are healthier, recover better, and are back with their families sooner. Surgical techs in urgent care and outpatient clinics liberate nurses to their duties, such as comforting patients and acquiring their medical histories, by disinfecting examination rooms after use and by sterilizing utensils for doctors to use for anything from minor surgeries such as mole biopsies to major procedures such as atrial bypasses. Some other medical fields where surgical techs are found include dentistry and surgical cosmetics, which includes procedures such as liposuction and laser eye surgery. Because surgical techs typically work full-time and on-call, these professionals usually have to live within fifteen minutes of the medical facility employing them, so these jobs can cause some financial stress in families in that they are limited to inhabiting small areas in what are often the most expensive areas of their cities, especially in major cities. Furthermore, surgical techs frequently work more than eight hours per shift, often making the maintenance of a coherent family life difficult. There are many surgical techs, however, who thoroughly enjoy their work and do not feel hindered by the long hours and high cost of living these jobs regularly entail.
Surgical tech jobs are not for everyone. Single men and women may have an easier time pursuing careers in the healthcare industry, but with good life-management and organizational skills, even people with families can take advantage of the many benefits these jobs have to offer. The financial benefits that surgical techs see for smaller investments in education provide one set of perks, and a lot of people find these jobs rewarding and fulfilling due to their strong desires to help others. As technology advances and more of these jobs become available, more people will be able to fulfill their dreams of helping others and leading successful careers.