Surgical tech programs are good for those who would like to enter the medical field but may not be able to commit the money or years to becoming a physician or nurse. This type of medical tech program generally can be completed with a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree. Health care itself is a growing industry, and job opportunities in this field are growing, as well.
People who perform this job also are known as operating room technicians or “scrubs.” The main role is to assist surgeons and surgical staff during operations. They prepare the room for surgery, counting supplies and making sure everything needed is on hand and in good order. They also can help prepare patients for surgery with cleaning and sterilization of a surgical area, positioning patients and the blankets to cover them correctly on the table for the procedure. These specialists also can be responsible for transporting the patient to and from the surgical ward.
Surgical Tech Programs
Prerequisites in this field include a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, with emphasis in health, math and science to prepare for postsecondary education. Following graduation, those interested in entering this field can study at a community college or a vocational technical school that offers training in this type of work. Training at a vocational school to prepare for a certification exam can take a little less than a year. Taking courses for an associate’s degree can take up to two years, and then studying for certification can take a few months after that.
Beyond the course studies, certification can help a candidate land a potential job. Earning certification involves participation in an accredited program and passing a final exam, along with participating in continued education in the field. Once certified through the program, job placement with a participating hospital or outpatient surgery center may follow.
The bulk of courses involved in surgical tech programs revolve around general medical studies. These courses include anatomy, biology, math and medical terminology, microbiology and pharmacology, among others. There also are courses that teach the finer points of operating room work and details of a surgical tech’s job. These elements include patient care, surgical procedures and management of the operating room, including tool inventory and sterilization.
You can go for a variety of associate medical degrees that allow you to receive surgical technician training on your road to certification. These types of associate degree programs include health administration, health services, health sciences, medical assisting, medical billing and radiology. Any of these types of two-year programs can put you on track to working toward surgical tech certification.
Employment and Advancement
U.S. federal statistics show that this line of work is expected to grow 19 percent during this decade. That means for those who have earned an associate’s degree and certification, the employment situation may work out well. With areas still recovering from the recession, hospitals may choose to apply cost-control measures by going with technicians for surgical support jobs.
Upon graduation, you could find yourself working at a hospital or outpatient surgery facility. The need for this type of work is expanding as more boomers become older and seek medical attention in areas to boost their lifestyle, such as joint and hip replacements, vision improvements through eye surgeries, and health care for medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
You may choose to specialize in a certain type of surgery, such as neurosurgery or heart surgery. Becoming specialized can help you advance in the field. You also could advance within hospital ranks with your surgical room expertise and earn a job managing central supply, taking inventory and preparing orders for items through the hospital. You may also decide to specialize as a patient representative, handling the surgical paperwork and visiting with the patient as you go over terms of the surgery and making sure they understand any surgical preparations. Some technicians move on to work with insurance companies or surgical supply companies, using their previous experience as background knowledge for their new job. With additional course study, you could become a project manager with a medical supply company and work with clients in different cities.
Further training as a surgical tech can lead to advancement from technician to surgical assistant. Surgical assistants offer service that is more specialized to a surgeon, including performing some minor surgical techniques as per the surgeon’s instructions. The education gained for a technician job also can serve as the basis in a college degree program to become a physician assistant or registered nurse, with courses taken for your surgical tech job counting toward your curriculum in an advanced degree program. You can think of the surgical tech field as the first step in entering a world of health care possibilities, from working with patients to administration and management duties.
Choosing This Work as a Career
To help decide whether becoming a surgical tech is the right line of work for you, consider how well you handle stress, how physically fit you are and how well you work with your hands. This type of job may appeal to someone who can handle stress and sort through problems efficiently. Surgical techs need to be able to work in high-pressure, split-second situations. They also must be able to stand for long periods during a surgery and quickly hand off necessary instruments to the attending surgeon.
If this line of work sounds like something you are interested in, you can explore training and educational program available in your area. The field is a good introduction to medicine and can put you on track toward a higher-paying job in the health care management field. Take some time to visit with a counselor affiliated with an accredited program in this field to learn more about the course study. You also can learn details concerning any potential scholarships available or financial assistance to help you in your enrollment. With the right skills and dedication, surgical tech programs may be the right choice to begin a new career for you.