Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors and nurses during surgeries. Most surgical technologists work in hospitals. Some work in outpatient surgery centers. They spend much of their time on their feet.
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Surgical technologists typically do the following:
Surgical technologists work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers. Before an operation, they prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment. They also prepare patients for surgery by washing and disinfecting incision sites, positioning patients on the operating table, and covering patients with sterile drapes.
Surgical technologists prepare sterile solutions used in surgery and check that all surgical equipment is working properly. They help the surgical team put on sterile gowns and gloves.
During an operation, surgical technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and first assistants. Technologists also may prepare, care for, and dispose of specimens taken for laboratory analysis. In addition, they apply dressings. After an operation, surgical technologists may help transfer patients to recovery rooms and may clean and restock operating rooms.
People interested in surgical technology should take high school courses in health, biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Surgical technologists typically need some type of postsecondary education.
Accredited programs in surgical technology are in many community colleges and vocational schools. Programs range in length from several months to two years, and they grant a certificate or associate’s degree. Admission typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Surgical technology education includes courses in anatomy, biology, medical terminology, and other topics. Students also work in supervised clinical settings to gain hands-on skills as technologists. In addition, technologists are trained in the care and safety of patients, sterilization techniques, and preventing and controlling infections.
Most surgical technologists work in hospitals. Some work in outpatient surgery centers or in offices of physicians or dentists who perform outpatient surgery. They wear scrubs (special sterile clothing) while they are in the operating room. They are typically on their feet and work next to others. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.
Most surgical technologists work full time. Those employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may be required to work shifts lasting longer than eight hours.
The median annual wage of surgical technologists was $39,920 in May 2010. (The median annual wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $28,100, and the top 10% earned more than $57,330.