Oncology Surgery Technician: Job Outlook and Career Information

Learn about what job duties an oncology surgery technician performs. Find out the educational and licensing requirements, along with the salary and employment outlook info, in order to make the right career decision.

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Career Definition for an Oncology Surgery Technician

To aid in the care and treatment of cancer, oncology surgery technicians assist surgeons and nurses throughout oncological surgeries. Their duties might include setting up and testing sterile equipment, prepping and positioning the patient, monitoring blood pressure and heart rate and cleaning up the operating room after the surgery. Oncology surgery technician jobs can be found in hospitals, cancer treatment centers, physician's offices and with special surgical teams where surgeons directly employ oncology surgery technicians to work as their 'private scrubs'.

Required Education Completion of a 9- to 24-month degree program in surgical technology followed by accreditation
Job Skills Include setting up and testing sterile equipment, monitoring blood pressure and heart rate; knowledge of tumor/cancer treatments, radiotherapy, and surgical procedures
Median Salary (2015)* $44,330 (all surgical technologists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 15% growth (all surgical technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

After completing a 9- to 24-month degree program in surgical technology, accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), graduates will be qualified to take a certification exam. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assistants (NBSTSA), which administers the exam for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation, requires test-takers to first complete a degree program; after earning the designation, CSTs must renew their certification every four years. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), which administers the exam for the Tech in Surgery - Certified (TS - C) designation, allows test-takers to complete a degree program, serve two years in a hospital training program, or complete seven years of experience in the field to qualify. The TS - C designation must be renewed every five years. There's no major difference between the designations, except in who proctors the exam.

Skills Required

Besides skills gained from coursework in anatomy, pharmacology, medical terminology, and microbiology, oncology surgery technicians must be proficient in surgical procedures, sterile techniques and the handling of special medications and solutions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Knowledge of special or unusual operation procedures for patients with recurrent cancer, familiarity with the treatment of tumors and understanding of other cancer treatment methods such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also useful for anyone specializing in oncology, according to the Society of Surgical Oncology (www.sso.org).

Career Outlook

As the Baby Boomer generation ages and requires more surgical procedures, surgical technicians of all specialties will experience a growing demand for their skills. The BLS forecasts a 15% increase in employment in the surgical technology field from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As of May 2015, the median annual earnings were $44,330. A career in oncology surgery technology offers a unique opportunity to work in a growing and evolving field of medicine.

Alternative Careers

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

For those who want to interact more with patients and provide quality medical care, becoming a licensed practical nurse may be the right career choice. These nurses communicate with patients about treatments, monitor vital signs, insert catheters, change bandages and help with bathing and other tasks. Depending on the state, some LPNs can also start IVs and administer medications. To enter this profession, earning a career diploma or certificate in practical nursing is necessary. Practical nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) in order to obtain the required state license. The BLS predicts 16% employment growth for licensed practical and vocational nurses during the 2014-2024 decade, resulting in almost 117,300 new positions. The median salary for these nurses was estimated by the BLS to be $43,170 in 2015.

Medical Assistant

If helping with patient care in a doctors' office is more desirable, a career in medical assisting could be the right fit. Medical assistants not only record patient histories and check vital signs; they also schedule appointment and tests, prepare samples for lab analysis, administer injections and organize medical records. Although no formal education beyond high school is required to gain employment, many medical assistants pursue a career certificate from an accredited program. Voluntary professional certification is also available for those who seek a competitive advantage. According to projections from the BLS, the field will grow by 23% and close to 138,900 new jobs in medical assisting will be created between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also estimated that the median wage for these professionals was $30,590 in 2015.

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