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Surgical Technologist Salary Factsheet
Schools & Colleges
Education & Training
What is a Surgical Tech?
Surgical Technology is a new allied medical profession that is quickly on the rise. Find out what surgical technologists do, the career prospects for surgical technicians/technologists, and how you can become one. With the growing number of surgical procedures across hospitals in the United States, Surgical Technologists (STs) are becoming indispensable in the operating room. The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) describes the profession as integral to the conduct of surgical procedures, with important duties to perform before, during, and after the operation.
Surgical Tech Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of a surgical technologist are basically divided into two: the non-sterile and the sterile.
Non-sterile duties are called such because they do not require extensive disinfection and sterilization when they perform their job. They are usually the ones interviewing the patients prior to and after an operation. Before the surgery, they help registered nurses and anesthesiologists in preparing the patient for the operating room. They assist in the operating room by obtaining and opening packages of sterile tools and instruments for the surgeons and surgical assistants, and by maintaining a written account of the surgery.
Sterile duties, on the other hand, involve these three steps:
Preoperative case management basically includes the preparation of the operating room and organization of all necessary supplies, instruments, and surgical equipment prior to the surgery.
During the surgery (intraoperative case management), surgical techs prepare, handle, and pass medications, supplies, instruments, and equipment to the surgeon and the surgical assistant. They also make sure that specimens removed from the patients during surgery are properly stored.
In Postoperative case management, surgical techs do the after-surgery cleanup by removing used instruments, supplies, and equipments. They are responsible for restocking the surgical supplies and making sure the operating room is sterile and ready for use.
Career Path: Surgical Tech Roles
The different duties of surgical techs can be clustered according to the surgical techs that perform specific roles. These roles somewhat define the career path that a surgical technologist takes.
Most surgical technologists start as assistants during preoperative and postoperative case management. Once they earn their certification and are conferred the title Certified Surgical technologist (CST), they then progress to becoming either of the following:
Surgical Technologists on Scrub Role (STSR)
Scrub surgical techs that perform all sterile functions from the preparation and sterilization of the operating room, to its proper cleanup and restocking
Circulating Surgical Technologists
Surgical technologists that perform all the non-sterile duties of a surgical technologist
With experience and continuing education, surgical technologists can become:
Second Assistant Surgery Technologists
CSTs who help first assistant surgical techs, surgical assistants, and surgeons by holding equipments (such as clamps) as directed
First Assistant Surgery Technologists
CSTs who work closely alongside the surgeon, performing such duties as sponging or suctioning operative areas, cauterizing, dressing wounds, etc.
Becoming a Surgical Technician
Surgical Technicians/Technologists complete a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree in Surgical Technology from a program or school that is duly accredited by any of the following:
- Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Educational Schools (ABHES)
After completing a Surgical Technology course, successful graduates need to pass the profession’s national certifying examination administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Those who are Certified Surgical Technologists have better chances of moving forward in their career as an allied health professional.
At present, there are over 80,000 surgical technologists in the United States. Together with surgeons and surgical assistants, they form the surgical team that works together seamlessly in order to save lives.
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