Surgical Technologist

Surgical Technologist

As a Surgical Technologist, you will work as an integral member of surgical teams to prepare the operating room for surgery, assist during surgery, and carry out the proper post-operative procedures.

Description of health care career information and the daily work:

You work under the supervision of surgeons or registered nurses. The other members on the operating room team generally include surgeons, anesthesiologists, and circulating nurses. Before the operation there are many ways you help the patient and the surgical team get ready. First, you help prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes, and sterile solutions. You help get the patient ready by washing, shaving, and disinfecting incision sites, and then transporting them to the surgery where you position them on the operating table. In addition, you will assist the surgical team with putting on sterile gowns and gloves.

During surgery, you pass instruments to the surgeons and surgeon assistants. You may also count sponges, needles, supplies, and instruments, as well as hold retractors and cut sutures. Any specimens needing laboratory analysis are prepared and cared for by you. You may also help apply dressings to incisions.

At the end of an operation, you may help transport patients to the recovery room and clean and restock the operating room.

The operating room can be a demanding place to work. Manual dexterity is needed to handle instruments quickly. In addition, being orderly and attentive to the needs of the surgeon are equally important.

Hospitals are the biggest employers of Surgical Technologists, the majority of whom work in operating and delivery rooms. Other places in the hospital employing Surgical Technologists include emergency rooms and central supply departments. You must stand for long periods and remain alert during operations. Like many health professionals, you typically work a 40 hour week, but may need to be available on weekends, evenings, and holidays.

Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:

A high school diploma is usually a prerequisite to enrolling in a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP) accredited surgical technology training program. The length of the training programs can range from 9 months to 24 months, depending on whether a certificate, diploma, or associate degree is awarded. In the training program, you will have both classroom and supervised clinical experience.

While certification is voluntary, most employers prefer to hire certified technologists. Upon graduating from a CAAHEP accredited program, you are eligible to take a national certification examination offered by the Liaison Council on Certification for Surgical Technologist which awards the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. To maintain your certification, which must be renewed every four years, you must participate in either continuing education or reexamination.

Certified Surgical Technologists who then take and pass the First Assistant National Certifying Examination are certified and can use the initials CST, CFA to designate their status as a Certified Surgical Technologist/Certified First Assistant.

Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:

Advancement opportunities come from specialization. For example, you may choose to specialize in a particular area of surgery such as neurosurgery or open heart surgery. Or you may decide to work as a different member of the surgical team called a circulating technologist. You will be the unsterile member of the surgical team in charge of the management of the operating room. You dispense sterile items, monitor supplies, keep records of the procedures, assist anesthesia personnel, and other functions. Another way to advance is through additional training to become a surgical first assistant. In this position, you assist the surgeon in sponging, suturing, and closing and treating wounds. Other opportunities for growth include managing central supply departments in hospitals or taking positions with insurance companies, sterile service supply services, or operating equipment firms.

In addition, many Surgical Technologists pursue additional education to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN).

Professional Associations

Association of Surgical Technologists

Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist