Surgical technologists work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and other surgical personnel before, during and after surgery. Surgery techs perform a wide variety of duties, but their main role is to hand the necessary equipment to the surgeon and members of the operating team, and to maintain the sterile field. They may also assist during surgery by holding retractors, cutting sutures, suctioning the wound and applying dressings. Additional responsibilities include setting up the operating room in preparation for a procedure, care and handling of instruments after the procedure, and gatherering of supplies, instruments and equipment for the next day’s procedures.
Certified surgical technologist, Jennifer Gerdes, says you learn how to mesh as a team, especially with the physicians you work with day in and day out. “When physicians start new procedures, they may take two hours when they’re first learning how. But then once you get down the road, it may only take 30 minutes. With us helping them, we’re not only learning the procedure, they’re learning the procedure. You kind of learn how to work together in order to make things go smoother and expedite the surgery.”
- General hospitals
- Surgical centers
- Surgeons who require special surgical teams and hire private scrubs
- Physician or dentist offices who perform outpatient surgery
Surgical technologists work in clean, well-lighted, cool environments. They must stand for long periods and remain alert during operations. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors and materials. Most surgical technologists work a regular 40-hour week, although they may be on call or work nights, weekends and holidays on a rotating basis.
Employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow 25 percent between the years, 2008 – 2018, as the volume of surgeries increases. Demand will stem from a growing elderly population, which generally require more surgical procedures. In addition, technological advances, such as fiber optics and laser technology, have permitted an increasing number of new surgical procedures to be performed and also have allowed surgical technologists to assist with a greater number of procedures.
- Ability to follow detailed instructions
- Ability to respond quickly and be familiar with surgical procedures
- Ability to communicate with staff and follow written and spoken directions
- Good manual dexterity, physical coordination, space and form perception
- Ability to make decisions based on prescribed standards or directions
- Conscientious, detail-oriented and orderly
- Ability to stand for long periods of time
- Ability to react calmly in emergency situations
Training programs for surgical technologists can range from 9-24 months and may be offered by community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals and the military. Licensing is not required, but certification by the Association of Surgical Technologists adds professional prestige and increases job opportunities. Continuing education or reexamination is required to maintain certification, which must be renewed every four years.
Advancement opportunities include specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open-heart surgery, or working as a circulation technologists. With additional training, some surgical techs advance to first assistant, which allows the tech to perform more advanced duties in assisting the surgeon.
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Other careers that involve working in the surgical setting:
Other careers that require approximately 1-2 years of training after high school:
For additional information on a career as a Surgical Technologist:
For more information on becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist:
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Surgical Technolgists, on the Internet at www.bls.gov