Surgical Technologist

What does a Surgical Technologist do? A surgical technologist (also..

Surgical Technologist

What does a Surgical Technologist do?

surgical technologist in surgery

A surgical technologist (also known as an operating room tech, scrub tech, or surg tech) assists during an operation. Surgical technologists report to the surgeons, doctors, or specialists who lead the operating or surgical teams.

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Primarily, a surgical technologist’s responsibilities are confined to the operation room and during the surgical procedures. However, there may be additional or secondary duties of a surgical technologist in outpatient settings. A surgical technologist may assist a medical facility in many ways wherever the skills and knowledge may be utilizable.

How to Become a Surgical Technologist

There are diploma programs, associate degrees, and certifications pertaining to surgical technology. There are many colleges and private institutes that offer accredited training programs in surgical technology. There are also vocational training programs that are usually short courses that run for a few months to a year. The associate’s degree programs usually offered at a community college takes two years. Most programs include training and coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, pharmacology, technology, and equipment.

Once the relevant training and skills through a program in surgical technology is acquired, a surgical technologist needs to sit for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. This is the most common certification route. According to the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) in January of 2017, all individuals that want to sit for this exam must graduate from a school accredited through the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Therefore, it is pertinent to check this upon enrolling into a program or inquire with the licensing board in your state prior to starting your studies.

The exam currently exist of 200 question which only 175 are actually scored, the other 25 questions are placed throughout the assessment for pure analysis and statistical evaluation or as sample questions. Exam content includes, but is not limited to preoperative preparation, intraoperative procedures, postoperative procedures, administrative and personnel, equipment sterilization and maintenance, anatomy, microbiology, and surgical pharmacology.

Fifty percent of the exam focuses on peri-operative care, therefore being a large portion of the exam content followed by basic sciences, sterilization and administrative duties. In 2015, the NBSTSA reported the national pass rate at 70% for those that took the paper version and 75% for the computer based version. Therefore, this exam should not be taken lightly. Upon passing the exam, the surgical technologist is certified. There are other certification programs as well, such as TS-C or Tech in Surgery, Certified. This is awarded by the National Center for Competency Testing or NCCT, for more information go to their website.

Job Description of a Surgical Technologist

The job description of a surgical technologist can be varied and shall depend on the specializations that one has. For instance, a surgical technologist may assist surgeons carrying out intensive surgeries of various parts of the body. In which case, a surgical technologist would need to be skilled in offering assistance to manage all kinds of medical equipment necessary for the procedure. A surgical technologist may also work at a dental clinic or a specialized medical facility, not necessary at a hospital.

According to O*Net OnLine, a surgical technologist must:

  • Maintain a proper sterile field during surgical procedures.
  • Count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after operation.
  • Scrub arms and hands and assist the surgical team to scrub and put on gloves, masks, and surgical clothing.
  • Provide technical assistance to surgeons, surgical nurses, or anesthesiologists.
  • Prepare patients for surgery, including positioning patients on the operating table and covering them with sterile surgical drapes to prevent exposure.
  • Hand instruments and supplies to surgeons and surgeons’ assistants, hold retractors and cut sutures, and perform other tasks as directed by surgeon during operation.
  • Prepare, care for, and dispose of tissue specimens taken for laboratory analysis.
  • Wash and sterilize equipment, using germicides and sterilizers.
  • Monitor and continually assess operating room conditions, including patient and surgical team needs.
  • Operate, assemble, adjust, or monitor sterilizers, lights, suction machines, or diagnostic equipment to ensure proper operation.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2055.00. O*NET OnLine. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2055.00

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics in 2014 over 60% of surgical technologist worked in a hospital setting followed by outpatient facilities. Typically, a working week for a surgical technologist is of forty hours but this may include nights, weekends, and emergency situations beyond any normal scheduling or roster.

In addition, surgical technologist are on their feet for extended periods, frequently more than 8 hours at a time and may need to move patients during the surgery procedures. Therefore, this career can be very demanding. Surgical technologists also encounter communicable diseases, exposure to internal and external body parts, and may smell foul odors. However, advances in science and technology have definitely made it safer and less intrusive, making the job a little easier.


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