If you want a healthcare job where you can help patients every day and be a valuable member of a team, surgical technologist might be the career for you.
The operating room is one of the most intense and fast-place settings in a hospital or outpatient surgery center. Surgeons might be working on a patient whose life could be hanging in the balance based on the outcome of the surgery.
The surgical technologist is a vital part of the surgical team and builds strong relationships with the other members. Surgical technologists are sometimes called operating room technicians and work under the authority of a surgeon.
"Surgical technologists are the machine in the operating room," said Luis Ortiz, director of the surgical technology program at Concorde Career Institute in Orlando. "The doctor runs the show, but we're the engine. What we bring to the table allows the surgeon to focus on the task at hand."
Surgical technologists set up operating room equipment, sterilize, inventory and organize instruments, prepare solutions and medications, position and drape patients, and ensure the sterility of the area immediately around the patient. During surgery, the surgical technologist passes instruments, sponges and supplies to the surgeon, always anticipating their needs and ensuring that sterile conditions are maintained.
"The role of a surgical technologist is so key in the surgical setting," Ortiz said. "Your surgeons are looking to you to have everything prepared. They just need to walk in there, put their hand out and have confidence you'll give them what they need."
How can you become a surgical tech?
The surgical technologist profession is expected to grow by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is double the growth of the average profession according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Surgical technologists typically need a postsecondary certificate or an associate's degree. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. Concorde Career Institute's Orlando campus offers an 18-month program where you can earn an associate in surgical technology and get the training you need to enter the workforce.
With additional education, surgical technologists can become Licensed Surgical Assistants (LSAs). LSAs perform limited surgical procedures such as opening and closing incisions, implanting devices, and graft harvesting. Many surgical technologists go on to be product experts for surgical device companies, working in the OR to train surgeons in new technologies.
"It bodes well for this career and our program, and says a lot about the caliber of students we're getting out there," said Ortiz, who adds that he constantly gets calls from healthcare providers looking for new surgical technologists. To be a successful surgical technologists, you need to be driven to help people and put your patients first, he said.
Concorde provides coursework and hands-on learning experiences - including clinical opportunities at healthcare facilities - that prepare students for the real-world work setting.
The program emphasizes these critical skills:
- Patient care
- Sterile field preparation
- Passing instruments, supplies and equipment to surgeons
- Surgical field maintenance
- Surgeon assistance
"As long as you know your instrumentation and are organized, you can pretty much do every procedure," said Ortiz, adding that training will continue throughout your career.
The Concorde student population is diverse, and the students become close through class and lab work. "Everyone is helping each other," Ortiz said. "In the lab its patient first and it's amazing to see people come together to make that happen."
Becoming a surgical technologist is a fulfilling career choice, especially if you enjoy helping others. "In healthcare, you have multiple opportunities to change someone's life for the better," Ortiz said. "It's good for the soul."