Surgical technicians play a very important role in the operating room. They work alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, and registered nurses while administering surgical procedures. Because it is a rewarding, hands-on, challenging career, many people are opting for a career in surgical technology.
The coursework required to become a surgical technician is divided into three main programs:
Associate degree program
The course content differs to a slight extent, but the basics for all three programs are the same.
Differences between the Courses
It should come as no surprise that people who enroll in associate degree courses typically earn more than those who complete diploma courses. However, the associate degree program takes longer to complete, around two years. It should be mentioned that there is also the surgical technician certificate program, which is tailored as a preparatory course for the certification exams that surgical technicians need to take regularly.
Where Classes are Offered
Surgical technology courses can be taken at community colleges, universities, hospitals, vocational programs, through the military, and online. They are widely available around the country, and many people complete their training alongside their regular jobs through night and weekend programs. It is required that you have a high school diploma or GED before enrolling in surgical tech courses.
The difficulty of the courses themselves may vary from one program to another.
Accredited programs often have more rigorous courses, and many students find they are more challenging. However, accredited programs are preferred by employers in the industry because their students are often better prepared and more capable due to a more demanding educational environment. Likewise, many employers will not hire applicants who have not graduated from surgical technology programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
What Surgical Technology Classes Cover
Surgical technology courses are highly technical and scientific, with courses concentrating on clinical and laboratory training. In addition, there is a great deal of practical training that is taught to students in order to help prepare them for the real world. (This focus on real world teaching is also covered in the surgical technician certification program.)
Some of the key training topics:
Standing, bending, and stooping for long periods in one location
Gaining an extensive knowledge of medical terminology and different types of operations performed
Handling different types of equipment, drugs, solutions, and utensils used during a surgical procedure
Training on how to properly lift up to 20 pounds
Maintaining a clean and infection-free environment
Tracking needed supplies used in surgery
Caring for patients: escorting them to and from the surgery room; providing care before and after procedures; interacting and being sensitive to their needs
Courses must also focus on anatomy, health care ethics and law, medical terminology, microbiology, pharmacology, and physiology. These courses consist of lectures with supplemental reading that can be time-consuming.
Students who have enrolled for associate and diploma programs take general education classes that focus on professional communication, mathematics, general psychology, English composition, career development, and success strategies. Such coursework helps students gain an extensive knowledge in addition to normal surgical procedures.
The laboratory training that is imparted to students is based on a clinical setting classroom where they learn general and specialized surgical procedures. In fact, this classroom resembles an operating room setting so that the students get the actual feel of a real-life operating environment. Here they are educated about sterilization of equipment and standard methods to maintaining an infection-free environment.
After students have passed the classroom and the laboratory tests, they must enter clinical internships. Here they will gain experience working under the monitored supervision of MD, RN, or a surgeon. They work in real-life situations and are graded on their performance. This period of their training is very helpful to students, as this is where they can grow into experienced surgical technicians.
Once you have completed your surgical technician classes, you should consider getting a surgical technology certification. This is done by taking a standardized certification test that will assess whether you have the necessary knowledge to work as a surgical technician. While some employers may not require certification from potential candidates, especially those with work experience, you will have more employment opportunities if you have a surgical technician certificate.
Surgical technology classes are difficult but they are not impossible. You will be a better surgical technician as you become more knowledgeable, so embrace your classroom experience and gain as much knowledge as you can.
Success as a surgical technician requires that you possess a vast, working knowledge of the body and medical procedures. So make the most of your education! Some students find that the amount of information they must learn is overwhelming. However, people with an interest in health sciences and anatomy as well as those with developed study and test preparation skills are most likely to success in a surgical technology program.