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How to Become an Operating Room Attendant

Learn how to become an operating room attendant. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the operating room. View article »

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  • 0:00 Shoul I Become an…
  • 0:55 Career Requirements
  • 1:30 Steps to Become an OR…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Operating Room Attendant?

An operating room attendant, otherwise known as a surgical technologist, is expected to prepare the operating room by ensuring that the area and all instruments are sterile. With more experience, their responsibilities may expand to include transporting patients to the operating room or assisting before, during and after the operation. The job often comes with long hours at hospitals that are open 24 hours a day. This means that operating room attendants may need to work nights, weekends and holidays. The job can be stressful due to the high-pressure atmosphere of the operating room.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average annual salary for surgical technologists of $45,940 in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Postsecondary certificate or associate degree
Degree Field Surgical technology
Experience One year on the job can sometimes be substituted for a degree when seeking certification
Certification Some states require certification
Key Skills Integrity; stress-management skills; physical stamina and dexterity; attention to detail; ability to use operating room equipment and surgical tools
Salary $45,940 (2015 average salary for surgical technologists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To become an operating room attendant, you'll need a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology. A few states regulate surgical technology by requiring technicians to be certified, and one year on the job can sometimes be substituted for a degree when seeking certification. You'll also want to have:

  • Integrity
  • Stress-management skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to use operating room equipment and surgical tools

Steps to Become an Operating Room Attendant

Let's go over the steps that need to be taken to become an operating room attendant.

Step 1: Earn a Postsecondary Certificate or Associate's Degree

High school students wishing to become operating room attendants should complete science-related courses, such as biology, chemistry and health to prepare for the career. After graduation, they should enroll in a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program with a focus on surgical technology. Areas of study could include anatomy, biology and medical terminology. In addition to classroom work, students get hands-on experience in clinical settings.

Success Tip

Enroll in an accredited academic program. Some of the credentialing organizations for surgical technicians and operating room attendants require a degree or certificate to be earned from an accredited program. Programs that have been accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools are recommended. Earning a degree from an accredited program will ensure individuals are eligible and effectively prepared for certification.

Step 2: Attain Certification

Certification can offer operating room attendants greater opportunities for gaining employment, according to the BLS. Students who have earned a degree or certificate from an accredited academic program can acquire voluntary certification through a couple of different agencies. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting requires students to show proof of graduation from an accredited program prior to testing. Military personnel who meet the proper training requirements are also eligible to take the exam.

Students can also attain certification from the National Center for Competency Testing. This agency has different qualification requirements that should be checked into prior to scheduling an exam. Surgical technicians or operating room attendants who have not graduated from an accredited academic program but have at least one year of work experience can seek certification through the National Healthcareer Association.

Sucess Tips

Properly prepare for your certification exam. Individuals should learn about what they will be tested on to fully prepare for an exam. Individuals can contact the credentialing organization to learn more about exam content and requirements.

Pursue continuing education opportunities if required. Some credentialing organizations require continuing education to maintain certification. Continuing education also keeps operating room attendants up to date on the latest advancements in the field.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Bachelor's Degree

Operating room attendants wishing to prepare for more senior-level positions may choose to further their education by completing a bachelor's degree program in such fields as surgical technology or health studies. Programs at the baccalaureate level are commonly available online and typically require students to have already completed clinical instruction at the associate's degree level. Some schools also require students to hold or be in the process of earning licensure or certification in an allied health field.

To become an operating room attendant, you'll need a certificate or associate's degree and should consider getting certified.


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