A surgical technician is someone who wants to be a part of the fast-paced, dramatic world of the operating room. They have a key role in creating an operating environment that is safe for patients and runs efficiently for the doctors and nurses.
Though this occupation pays well, that is not the only reason why many choose to pursue this career. Those who become surgical technicians appreciate the fact that no two days will ever be the same.
This profession is exciting because employment opportunities are growing throughout the entire health care industry, not just at hospitals. This gives you many options for when, how, and where you work.
There are a number of surgical technician certifications and various levels of educational degree that one can earn. With the proper certifications, surgical technicians have many professional opportunities.
Become a Surgery Team Member and Use Your Skills
Surgical technicians are also called “scrubs” or “operating room technicians.” According to the Association of Surgical Technologists’ job description, surgical technicians are “allied health professionals who are an integral part of the team of medical practitioners providing surgical care to patients.” In this short summation, you can see the exciting potential of this field.
What Surgical Technicians Do
Organize the supplies and equipment in the operating room
Set up the operating surgeon’s sterile table, anticipating what might be needed during the procedure
Help the surgeon and any assistants don their surgical gowns and gloves
Count surgical instruments before and after the surgery
Hand the desired instruments to the surgeon during the operation
Prepare the sterile dressings
Clean the surgical instruments after the operation
Assist with cleaning the operating room after an operation
May assist with the transfer of the patient to the recovery room
Be First in Your Field as a Surgical First Assistant
There are surgical technicians, and then there are surgical first assistants. Like most “firsts” in life, achieving a first position requires specialized training. The duties of surgical first assistants include the ones just listed for the surgical technicians, as well as controlling blood flows during the surgical procedure, such as hemorrhages.
In other words, if you become a surgical first assistant, you will begin assisting directly with certain medical situations and procedures. The duties of a certified surgical first assistant require additional professional certification by accrediting organizations.
Consider the Circulating Surgical Technician
There is also a position called the circulating surgical technician. Just like the title implies, your duties are not limited to the operating room.
What Circulating Surgical Technician Do
Interview patients before a surgical procedure
Prepare the patient for surgery, including applying monitors
Open the sterile instrument packages and handing them to a surgical first assistants
Maintain a written account of what occurs during a surgical procedure
Obtain additional instruments or equipment for surgeons during a procedure
Personality Traits of Successful Surgical Technicians
If you possess certain character traits, it is highly likely that you will enjoy this career. Successful surgical technicians:
Want a career in the medical field
Like organization and routine
Are often very methodical in their personalities
Have a penchant for careful cleaning
Seek career advancement opportunities
Can stay calm under pressure or in tense situations
The Most Important Duty of the Surgical Technician
Your most important duty as a surgical technician is fulfilling the role of assistant to the surgeon. The surgeon relies heavily on you to do your job correctly while being able to handle requests that are made during the surgery. Surgical technicians handle pressure with grace, can stand on their feet for long periods of time, and enjoy working with people.
Plan Your Career Path
Your advancement as a surgical technician will most likely be determined by the certifications you earn along the way. You can begin…
As a generalist, earning certifications later on in specializations like neurosurgery and open heart surgery, or
As a surgical technician, then advance to become a surgical first assistant through additional training and job experience
Not all surgical technicians work in hospitals. You can work in outpatient surgical facilities, physician offices that do minor in-house surgeries, and dental offices where dental surgical procedures are performed in-house.
Where you work, the certifications you earn, and years of experience will have a direct bearing on your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median wages for surgical technicians were $38,740 as of 2008. That number was $36,380 for dental offices and $38,520 for physician offices. Outpatient care centers saw the highest median wages, $39,660.
Educational Path and Certifications
It is important to have the right education before embarking on a career as a surgical technician. Plan to enroll in an accredited training program recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs [CAAHEP]. Accredited programs can be found in a variety of educational institutions, including community colleges, universities, vocational schools, and hospital-based training programs. Try searching online for ones closest to you.
When you complete a program, you will have earned a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. You can earn certifications in several ways.
While either certificate is voluntary, most employers will only hire people who have certification and meet continuing education requirements. Having either one means you are recognized by a national organization to meet the requirements of the job, and can work in any state.