How To Become A Surgical Technologist
If you want to work in an operating room setting but don’t want to work as a surgeon, you can consider a career as a surgical technologist, also known as an operating room technician. In this profession, you will be assisting in surgical operations. You will be responsible for preparing the operating rooms before surgery. This task involves sterilizing equipment and ensuring that the needed supplies for surgery are complete and sufficient. It will also be your responsibility to get the patient ready by cleaning and disinfecting the body part where the incision is scheduled to be made.
During surgery, you will be assisting the surgeons by covering patients in sterile drapes, positioning patients on the operating table and passing surgeons the instruments and supplies he needs. You may also be asked to use retractors to keep internal organs in place while the operation is going on. After the operation, you will be asked to dress the incision site and then bring the patient to the recovery room. It will also be your responsibility to clean and restock the operating room.
To succeed as a surgical technologist, you need to be very detail-oriented. You will be handing surgeons the equipment they ask for so you need to be very familiar with all the surgical tools and implements. You also need manual dexterity as most of the work will need to be done with your hands. You must also be trustworthy as the patient and other members of the surgical team trust on you to sterilize all the needed equipment. It’s also very important that you are physically healthy because surgical procedures can take hours and you will be standing on your feet during this time. You also need to be psychologically and mentally fit to handle stressful situations as surgical procedures can be very demanding.
There are surgical technologists that could actually help the surgeon operate on the patient. They are called surgical first assistants. If you are certified to become one, you can directly assist the surgeon and do such procedures as suturing a wound or suctioning the site of the incision.
Why Become A Surgical Technologist
One of the reasons to pursue a career as a surgical technologist is that it is very fulfilling. You are an integral part of the patient’s healthcare team. You find meaning and inspiration in the work you do every time your patient recovers from an operation.
Another reason to become a surgical technologist is that it allows you to work in the healthcare industry without having to stay in school for a long period of time. It also provides a decent wage. Moreover, it’s a rapidly-growing field that promises a lot of employment opportunities in the next few years.
Surgical Technologist Work Environment
Surgical technologists generally work in hospitals. However, there are others who are employed in outpatient care centers and in the clinics of doctors who are allowed to do surgical operations for outpatients. The work schedule is fulltime but their shifts can last more than eight hours in some cases. As in any healthcare profession, surgical technologists can be on-call on weekends, evenings and holidays.
One of the challenges faced by surgical technologists is the physical demands of the job. They are required to stand for hours at a time. They may also be asked to lift patients who are bigger than they are and carry heavy medical supplies and equipment. Another hazard is the possibility of exposure to diseases.
Surgical technologists are required to wear special sterile clothing known as scrubs while they do their work in the operating room. Wearing this and following operating room protocol will help prevent the surgical technologist from getting infected.
Surgical Technologist Work Salary
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that that the mean annual wage of surgical technologists is $44,420. This is considerably more than the $33,620 paid to health practitioner support technologists and technicians. The agency reported in May 2012 that surgical technologists who belonged to the top 10 percent of the salary range received over $60,240 in yearly wages while the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $29,710.
Average Surgical Technologist Annual Salary
The average annual salary for surgical technologists is $48,060 a year. Salaries start at $32,470 a year and go up to $67,000 a year.
Average Surgical Technologist Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a surgical technologist is $23.11. Hourly wages are between $15.61 and $32.21 an hour.
Stats were based out of 106,470 employed surgical technologists in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Surgical Technologists
- 1. California $29.44 / hr $61,240 / yr
- 2. Alaska $28.93 / hr $60,180 / yr
- 3. Nevada $28.73 / hr $59,750 / yr
- 4. District of Columbia $27.94 / hr $58,120 / yr
- 5. Hawaii $27.22 / hr $56,620 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Surgical Technologists
- 1. San Francisco, CA $35.71 / hr$74,280 / yr
- 2. San Jose, CA $34.98 / hr$72,750 / yr
- 3. Salinas, CA $33.83 / hr$70,370 / yr
- 4. Redding, CA $32.15 / hr$66,870 / yr
- 5. San Rafael, CA $31.94 / hr$66,430 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Surgical Technologist Career Outlook
The job outlook for surgical technologists is quite positive for 2012 to 2022. For this ten-year period, the employment rate is expected to grow 30 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. The demand will come from the fact that surgery is now safer and used more often in treating different kinds of medical conditions.
The aging population will also contribute to the demand because they are more prone to conditions that require surgery to treat. The demand will also stem from the reality that hospitals that want to save on their budgets will hire surgical technologists than registered nurses for the operating room because they typically receive lesser pay.
Surgical Technologist Degree
Aspiring surgical technologists need to obtain their high school diploma or GED since this is a requirement in enrolling in an accredited program in surgical technology offered in colleges, universities and hospitals. The program varies from a few months to two years and a diploma, certificate or associate’s degree is conferred on the student.
The courses are a combination of classroom studies and hands-on experience in a supervised clinical setting. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools have accredited an estimated 500 surgical technologist training programs as of 2012.
After finishing the surgical training program, a surgical technologist can get certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. This requires passing of an exam. The National Center for Competency Testing also offers certification as a “Tech in Surgery-Certified” after the surgical technologist has complied with all the set requirements. In order to keep their certification, they will need to comply with continuing education requirements.
Surgical first assistants, meanwhile, can get certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, the National Surgical Assistant Association and the American Board of Surgical Assistants.