Certification Options for Operating Room Attendants

Sep 30, 2019

Certification is required for operating room attendants, also known as surgical technologists. Get some quick facts about the education and requirements necessary to qualify as an operating room attendant.

Operating room attendants have a number of options when seeking certification. These options usually include meeting educational and work experience requirements as well as passing an examination. Recertification generally involves completing continuing education coursework.

Essential Information

Operating room attendants prepare an operating room prior to surgery by setting up surgical instruments and other necessary equipment and work with patients before and after surgery. The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) and the Tech In Surgery Certified (TS-C) are two nationally recognized certification designations, though there are additional certifications recommended for advancement.

Required abilities Knowledge of common duties and practices performed by an operating room attendant, including pre-, intra-, and post-operative procedures, equipment sterilization, administrative procedures and basic sciences
Exam requirements None for CST; years of experience for TS-C
Specialization options Certified Surgical First Assistant (CFA) through National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) Faster growth than average (9%)
Median Annual Salary (2018) $47,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)

The CST exam is offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). The exam consists of 200 questions that cover common duties and practices performed by an operating room attendant, including pre-, intra-, and post-operative procedures, equipment sterilization, administrative procedures and basic sciences. Renewal of certification takes place every four years. Options for certification renewal consist of retaking and passing the national certifying exam or completing 60 continuing education credits.

Tech In Surgery Certified (TS-C)

The TS-C exam is offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Graduates of an approved degree program with at least one year of full-time work, or individuals with seven years of full-time experience are eligible to take the exam. The exam tests knowledge of anatomy and physiology, medical terms, infection control, safety procedures, and pharmacology. Recertification is required yearly and operating room attendants must complete 14 hours of continuing education courses.

Certified Surgical First Assistant (CFA)

The CFA exam is also offered through the NBSTSA. Taking the CFA exam requires first becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist. Additionally, individuals must have at least 350 surgical cases and two years of surgical first assistant experience within the prior four years. This experience must have documented verification of surgical experience by two surgeons or surgical supervisors.

The CFA exam is made up of 200 questions and takes up to four hours to complete. Topics covered on the exam include pre-, intra-, and post-operative procedures, advanced sciences, administrative procedures, and equipment sterilization and maintenance. As with the CST exam, the CFA exam can be renewed every four years by either retaking the exam or completing 75 continuing education credits.

Career and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgical technologists are projected to see a faster than average job growth of 9% from 2018-2028. The median annual wages for these workers were $47,300 in 2018.

Operating room attendants can choose to be certified as either a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) or Tech in Surgery Certified (TS-C). Those seeking advanced certification can choose the Certified Surgical First Assistant (CFA) certification, which requires previous certification and significant experience in the field. Regardless of which certification they earn, operating room attendants can expect a job growth rate that is much faster than average over the coming years.

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