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Orthopedic Surgeon's Assistant Job Information

Students interested in entry-level positions in the surgical field might want to consider preparing to become orthopedic surgeon's assistants. Keep reading to learn more about this position's job duties, education requirements and career outlook.

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Career Definition for an Orthopedic Surgeon's Assistant

Also known as surgical technologists, orthopedic surgeon's assistants work under the supervision of orthopedic surgeons to administer pre- and post-operative care to patients undergoing procedures to treat musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. They also hand instruments and medical supplies to surgeons during operations and ensure proper procedures are followed to maintain sterile conditions. Additional job duties could include preparing an operating room for surgery, setting up equipment and restocking supplies once a procedure has been completed.

Required Education Typically, a certificate, diploma or associate degree in surgical technology
Job Duties Include caring for patients with musculoskeletal injuries and disorders during or after surgery, passing instruments to surgeons during operations
Median Salary (2015)* $44,330 (surgical technologists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 15% growth (surgical technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A certificate, diploma or associate degree in surgical technology is typically required for a job in this field. Entry-level training programs include courses in anatomy, physiology and medical terminology. Students may also learn about hemostasis, wound closure and suturing techniques through a combination of coursework and clinical rotations in a variety of specialty areas, including orthopedics.

Programs are also available for current surgical technologists who want to improve their skills and gain experience. This type of training can allow students to choose a specialty area, such as orthopedics, and prepare them to participate in additional major and minor procedures.

Certification and Registration Requirements

Voluntary certification is available from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, which awards the Certified Surgical Technologist credential, and the National Center for Competency Testing, which awards the Tech in Surgery-Certified designation. The requirements to earn a certification generally include completing an approved training program and passing an exam.

Some states require surgical technologists to be registered before seeking employment, which could entail submitting proof of certification from a professional organization, such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. These credentials are typically granted to applicants who've completed an approved training program and earned passing scores on exam.

Skills Required

Surgical technologists should have the attention to detail and manual dexterity needed to ensure orthopedic surgeons are provided with the right equipment in a timely fashion. An ability to perform their job duties in a stressful work environment is also key, as is the physical strength necessary for lifting and moving patients, transporting supplies and standing throughout a lengthy surgical procedure.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that surgical technologist jobs would grow at a rate of 15% during the 2014-2024 decade. This employment increase was attributed partly to the growing need for surgical procedures among baby boomers and partly to cost-cutting measures in which surgical technologists are hired in lieu of registered nurses. As of May 2015, surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $44,330.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician

Individuals interested in working with medical equipment might also consider positions as medical and clinical laboratory technicians. These lab professionals are responsible for running the machinery used to perform diagnostic tests on blood and other bodily fluids. Minimum requirements for technicians often include a 2-year degree and, in some states, certification from a professional organization. According to the BLS, the prevalence of diseases like diabetes and cancer among a growing elderly population could drive a 18% employment increase for medical and clinical laboratory technicians from 2014-2024. As of 2015, these technicians earned a median annual salary of $38,970.

Licensed Practical Nurse

Students interested in providing care to patients could find a licensed practical nursing (LPN) career more to their liking. These health care professionals monitor patient health, record their progress and perform basic tasks, such as bathing or dressing patients, to ensure their comfort. The completion of a 1-year training program is required for entry into this field. Program graduates must also earn passing scores on a national licensing exam. A much-faster-than-average job growth of 16% was also forecasted for LPNs during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS. LPNs' median annual wage was $43,170 as of May 2015.

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