Surgical technologists assist surgeons during surgery as well as preparing the operating room. It is their responsibility to maintain a sterile work environment, and they are usually tasked with preparing patients and handing off surgical tools to the surgeon. They are trained through certificate, diploma or associate's degree programs.
Surgical technologists are allied health professionals who assist surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses (RNs) and other surgical personnel with surgical procedures. They help ensure patient and operating room safety, as well as the functionality and sanitation of surgical equipment.
Individuals interested in this career can choose to complete a formal education program in surgical technology; such programs can be completed in less than two years. Licensure isn't required, though voluntary certification can be helpful in securing employment.
|Required Education||Certificate, diploma or associate's degree in surgical technology|
|Other Requirements||Certification is voluntary|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||15% for all surgical technologists*|
|Mean Annual Salary (2015)||$45,940 for all surgical technologists*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certified Surgical Technologist Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surgical technologists earned an average yearly salary of $45,940 as of 2015 (www.bls.gov). The lowest-paid ten percent earned up to $31,410, while the highest-paid ten percent earned $63,410 and above in that year.
The average salary varied based on employer and location. Surgical technologists working in California, Nevada, the District of Columbia and Hawaii earned the highest salaries at that time, with the average annual wage in each listed at more than $54,440 per year, according to BLS data.
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Surgical technologists mainly sterilize and maintain surgical equipment, prepare patients for surgery and help ensure that surgical procedures run smoothly. They set up surgical instruments and equipment prior to surgical procedures and ensure that everything is functioning properly. They also prepare patients for surgery by shaving, washing and disinfecting an incision site, transporting the patient to the operating room, positioning them on the operating table and covering them with sterile drapes.
During surgery, surgical technologists keep an inventory of supplies and hand instruments and other equipment to surgeons and assistants. They might also cut sutures, hold retractors, operate suction machines or diagnostic equipment and apply dressings. After surgery, they clean and restock the operating room and might transport patients to a recovery area.
Education and Certification Requirements
Several community colleges, vocational schools and hospitals offer surgical technology programs. These programs generally take 9-24 months to complete and could result in a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Courses typically include basic anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and medical ethics, along with advanced instruction in microbiology, pharmacology, sterile techniques, patient care and surgical procedures. Students learn to handle drugs and solutions, sterilize equipment and prevent infection, and often participate in clinical rotations as part of the program.
Graduates of accredited surgical technology programs can become certified by passing an examination administered by a credentialing organization, such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the National Center for Competency Training. In some cases, experience can be substituted for formal education. Certification can be renewed every 4-5 years by earning continuing education credits or retaking the certification examination.
Surgical technologists prepare and maintain the surgical environment of the operating room, including ensuring that the patients and tools are clean and prepared for the operation. Education programs for surgical technologists usually last no more than two years and result in a degree or certificate. The average salary in this field was about $46,000 in 2015.