Some decisions in life are just plain harder than others. We’re not talking about choosing which Netflix movie to watch here folks. We’re talking about those big decisions that can quite literally change your life – like deciding on a career path. If you’re knee-deep in pondering the right future for your future self, you’re not alone.
But even if you’ve managed to narrow it down to the healthcare industry, there are still sooo many career paths to choose from! So, how do you decide? Well, if you’re one of those people who not only didn’t skip frog dissection day in biology class, you showed up early, you might want to consider a career as a surgical technologist.
What, you might ask, does a surgical technologist do? Glad you asked! Surgical technologists, or as they are often referred to as, surgical techs – provide essential support to surgeons in a variety of ways. To help you gain a better understanding of what a career as a surgical technologist looks like, we’re exploring the ins and outs, as well as the advantages to pursuing a career in surgical technology. Let’s start by discussing what a surgical technologist does on a regular basis.
What Does a Surgical Technologist do on a Regular Basis?
Surgical techs play a vital role in the operating room, working closely with surgeons and other medical professionals. As a surgical technologist, you can expect to perform some or all of the following duties on a regular basis:
- Prepare operating rooms and sterilize equipment and instruments
- Assist surgeons during surgery by passing instruments, sutures, and supplies
- Anticipate surgeon’s needs and proactively prepare for next steps during surgery
- Monitor surgical supplies, instruments, and inventory of materials used
- Ensure that the operating room remains clean, organized, and safe for all staff and patients
- Help transport patients to and from the operating room
- Maintain surgical equipment
- Collaborate with other healthcare professionals in the operating room.
In some instances, you might also be tasked with cleaning and disinfecting patients before surgery or bandaging and dressing incisions in post-op settings.
Training and Education Requirements
To become a surgical technologist, you will need to complete an accredited training program in surgical technology. These programs are typically offered at community colleges and vocational schools and can range anywhere from 9 months to 2 years. Curriculum typically includes both classroom instruction and hands-on training in the operating room.
Most programs require a high school diploma or equivalent in order to enroll, and some may require prerequisite coursework in subjects such as anatomy and physiology. During your training, you’ll learn about surgical procedures, sterilization techniques, medical terminology, as well as operating room etiquette, patient care, and safety procedures.
It’s worth noting that some employers may require a certain amount of on-the-job training before allowing you to work independently as a surgical technologist. This can include a period of observation and supervision as well as additional training on specific surgical procedures or equipment.
Surgical Technology Certification
Once you’ve completed your training program, you may be required to become certified by a professional organization such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). To become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST), you’ll need to complete your accredited program and pass a national exam. But it’s well worth the effort considering most employers prefer to hire employees who are certified.
Additionally, continuing education is a requirement for maintaining certification, which means certified surgical technologists are constantly learning and improving their skills. This dedication to ongoing education not only benefits you as an individual but also ensures a high level of patient care.
Where do Surgical Technologists Find Employment?
There are a ton of opportunities for employment for surgical technologists. Some of the places where surgical technologists can work include:
- Hospitals: Surgical technologists can work in different departments within hospitals such as the emergency room, labor and delivery, and surgical units.
- Ambulatory Surgery Centers: These centers provide same-day surgery for patients, and surgical technologists are often hired to work in these settings.
- Private Clinics: Private clinics that offer specialized surgical procedures hire surgical technologists to assist surgeons during operations.
- Government Agencies: Surgical technologists can also find employment in government agencies such as the military, veterans’ hospitals, and the public health sector.
- Education Institutions: Universities, technical schools, and community colleges hire surgical technologists as educators to train students in surgical technology.
Aspiring surgical technologists can also explore opportunities for travel and adventure by taking assignments in different cities or even different countries.
Career Outlook and Compensation for Surgical Technologists
The job outlook for surgical technologists is quite positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, and there are approximately 9,600 openings for surgical technologists every year as a result of workers retiring or changing occupations.
Like many healthcare careers, surgical technology careers pay well. The average median wage for surgical technologists in 2021 was $48,530 and the highest 10% in the industry earned more than $75, 940!
Benefits of Becoming a Surgical Technologist
If you’re interested in the healthcare industry and are looking for a rewarding career that allows you to make a difference, becoming a surgical technologist might be the perfect choice for you. This career comes with several benefits that make it a lucrative and fulfilling career path. Here are some of the advantages of pursuing a career as a surgical technologist.
- Employability, flexibility, mobility – It’s true! When you graduate as a surgical tech, your skills can go with you – just about anywhere! If you decide to pick up and move to, guess what? They have hospitals, clinics and ORs everywhere. That gives you the flexibility to not just do what you want for a living, but to do it where you want to do it. And considering the number of jobs in surgical technology is on the rise – your surgical technology skillset makes you very employable.
- Opportunity for advancement – Surgical technologists have plenty of opportunities for advancement within the field. With additional training and certification, you can choose to pursue advanced training and become a surgical assistant, surgical nurse, or even a surgical first assistant.
- Your job will be far from routine – Let’s face it, emergencies happen every day and as a surgical tech, you’re likely to be experiencing something different, pretty much – every day. Translation? Your career as a surgical tech is not likely to be boring.
- Faster track to your future – Most surgical technology programs can be completed in up to 24 months. So, you’ll be able to get your career off the ground faster and be on your way to earning faster than those who choose the traditional four-year university route.
- You’ll be part of a life-saving team – Perhaps the best reason to become a surgical tech is that you’ll get to be an important and essential part of a life-saving team! It’s hard to imagine a more rewarding reason than that.
Most of us are only one decision away from the career of our dreams. If you’re intrigued by the world of surgical technology and want to learn more, please visit The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs for a list of accredited programs near you.