What do Surgical Technologists do?

Working alongside surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists, the surgical technologist is part of a professional team

Even the world’s best-known surgeons require a team of professionals to help complete operations safely and effectively. Members of typical surgical teams include the surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, nurses, surgical assistants, and surgical technologists.

This article looks at the role of the surgical technologist and the training it takes to become one. Surgical technologists are also known as operating room technicians, surgical technicians, surg techs, or “scrubs.” The term “scrubs” comes from one of the responsibilities of surg techs, which is to help the physicians and other team members “scrub in.” This means helping the team members to remain sterile while putting on their hood/head covers, scrub suits, surgical masks, eyewear, gloves, and shoe covers.

Job Responsibilities for Surgical Technologists
Much of a surgical technician’s job is focused on infection prevention. While this may not sound as glamorous as actually performing a surgery, it is an extremely important function that must be taken seriously. Nosocomial infections (infections that patients acquire while in the hospital) are a significant danger for all patients in the hospital, and particularly for patients who are undergoing surgery. Helping to prevent hospital-acquired infections is a top priority for surgical technicians. An infection in an otherwise healthy patient can turn a routine operation into a life-threatening condition.

Surgical technologists have some of the following responsibilities on the job:

  • Sterilizing instruments and equipment in the operating room
  • Organizing the operating room with the materials and instruments that are needed for that particular operation
  • Creating and maintaining the sterile field in the operating room
  • Helping physicians and other team members with “scrubbing in”—getting dressed in sterile garb for the surgery, and maintaining the sterile conditions
  • Assisting in the operating room as needed
  • Cleaning up the operating room and preparing for the next procedure.

How to Become a Surgical Technician
Most surgical technicians undergo training at a community college or career training school. The curriculum in these programs typically focuses on sterile technique, medical terminology, and human anatomy and physiology. Students learn what to expect in typical procedures, and get to practice in labs that are set up like real operating rooms. Many programs offer an internship or externship opportunity, where students are placed in a local hospital or surgical center to shadow a working surg tech and learn as much as possible about working in a surgical setting. Most programs can be completed in about one year.

Where Surgical Technologists Work
Surgical technologists can work in a number of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, surgery centers, outpatient centers, and specialty hospitals. Surg techs should be prepared to spend most of the day working on their feet. They must be strong at following directions, paying attention to detail, and working in a fast-paced environment.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for surgical technologists is strong. The handbook says, “Employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.” The handbook attributes this projected growth to factors such as the aging baby boom generation and advances in medical technology, which are likely to increase the demand for surgical operations.

Does this career field sound interesting to you? If you want to learn more about this career choice, request more information or read about the Surgical Technology program offered at Branford Hall’s North Brunswick NJ campus. This could be the start of a new career path for you!