Surgical Technologist Vs Surgical Technician Differences

Jun 04, 2020

Comparing Surgical Technologists to Surgical Technicians

Surgical technologists and technicians work in surgical theaters of hospitals and clinics and have many of the same duties. Keep in mind that organizations and employers use these job titles differently and, in some cases, hospitals may list surgical technicians as being a more advanced position that could even require a nursing degree. In general, however, the title of technologist denotes a more advanced position than that of technician. For our purposes, we will be adhering to this view. Surgical technologists and technicians are compared below along with some vital information on each.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Surgical Technologist Associate's degree or postsecondary certificate $48,300 (2019) 9%
Surgical Technician Varies; some employers require completion of a formal postsecondary program while others may provide on-the-job training to high school graduates $43,386** (2020) 17% (for all other health technologists and technicians not covered separately by the BLS)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

Responsibilities of Surgical Technologists vs. Surgical Technicians

Both occupations can involve interacting with patients, assisting medical professionals, and preparing surgical areas. However, technologists typically have more education and may be more directly involved with assisting patients before and after a surgical procedure in comparison to technicians. As mentioned previously, it's important to keep in mind that organizations and employers may use the terms surgical technologists and surgical technicians differently.

Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists work with surgeons, registered nurses and other surgery personnel. They help prep the surgical arena and sterilize everything including instruments and tools. Technologists also get patients ready for their surgeries by shaving patients, disinfecting incision areas and draping them properly. These experts aid surgeons, run some equipment and may handle specimens for laboratory testing. Technologists use their experience to anticipate a surgeon's needs and monitor patients while under anesthesia, so being detail-oriented and able to handle stress is vital. They can be exposed to communicable diseases in their work, and in many cases they work long shifts and are on call at odd hours; obviously, physical stamina is essential in this line of work.

Job responsibilities of a surgical technologist include:

  • Maintaining the sterility of the surgery area
  • Helping prepare the surgeon for surgery with gloves and gowns
  • Keeping up with sponges and other materials before, during and after surgery
  • Applying dressings after surgeon has completed his work
  • Cleaning and restocking the surgical room

Surgical Technician

Normally, surgical technicians report to surgical technologists or the head registered operating nurses. Technicians can do some of the same tasks as technologists like sterilizing the surgery room, cleaning tools and utensils and such. They normally take care of the surgical patients pre-op by keeping them calm and comforted and transporting them to surgery. Technicians often act as a liaison to patients and their family members keeping them informed to what is going to happen before, during and after the surgery. Above all, they are team players who work as a unit with other surgical team members throughout the procedure.

Job responsibilities of a surgical technician include:

  • Aiding in getting the surgery room set up for surgery
  • Assisting surgical technologists and nurses during procedures
  • Anticipating the needs of physicians or other surgery personnel
  • Gathering soiled materials after surgery for sterilization
  • Returning patients to room

Related Careers

If you're interested in the kinds of duties that surgical technologists or technicians have, you might consider becoming a licensed practical nurse, as these healthcare workers take care of patients under the supervision of RNs and physicians. Medical assistants handle clinical and administrative duties for a hospital, clinic or private physician, so this healthcare support occupation could be another similar option.

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