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How to Become a Certified Scrub Technician

Research the requirements to become a certified scrub technician. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in surgical technology.

Should I Become a Certified Scrub Technician?

Scrub technicians, also referred to as surgical technologists, assist surgeons in the operating room. Responsibilities for this position include preparing operating rooms, sterilizing equipment, passing instruments to the surgeons, moving patients and dressing wounds.

Many surgical technologists work in hospitals; as a result, there is a minimal risk of being exposed to infectious diseases. Much of technicians and technologists' time is spent on their feet; surgeries may take hours to complete. Most scrub technicians work full-time, and schedules may include evenings, overnights, weekends and on-call hours.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that the median annual income for surgical technologists was $44,330.

Career Requirements

To become a scrub technician, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent and a postsecondary degree in surgical technology. While some employers may prefer certification, it is voluntary. In addition, you will likely need at least a year of related scrub experience, but this requirement varies by employer. The key skills and attributes that you should have include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Stamina
  • Dexterity
  • Stress management
  • Ability to use field-specific medical software
  • Familiarity with surgical tools such as surgical staplers, portable suction units, orthopedic drills, and thermal cautery units

Let's take a look at the steps you need to take to become a certified surgical technician.

Step 1: Complete a Surgical Technology Program

Prospective scrub technicians who plan on obtaining certification should attend a diploma, certificate or associate's degree program accredited by either the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). According to the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), a 2-year associate's degree program in surgical technology is the preferred credential for entry-level practice. Required courses typically include anatomy and physiology, biology, medical terminology, microbiology, nursing assistant training, operating room techniques and surgical procedures.

Step 2: Gain Scrub Experience

During your postsecondary training, consider completing a clinical internship. An internship is an opportunity for students to work and learn in a professional environment. Students shadow experienced technicians and begin applying their studies to professional situations.

Your next step is to gain experience because, based on job posting from employers in November 2012, employers typically look for applicants with related experience. Prospective scrub technicians can find positions in healthcare environments, such as hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers, where they learn how to prepare medical charts and assist physicians.

Step 3: Become Certified

Finally, you can become certified. Although not required, certification as a scrub technician can help increase job prospects. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) is just one of the organizations that offers related certification. Graduates from a program accredited by the CAAHEP or ABHES, as well as scrub professionals from the military, are eligible to sit for the certification exam to attain the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential from the NBSTSA.

Once you are certified, make sure to keep it current. Organizations like the NBSTSA require certification renewal. To recertify, scrub techs typically need to complete continuing education credits or retake the certifying examination.

To become a certified scrub technician, you need a postsecondary degree in surgical technology, experience in the field and certification from a professional organization.

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