Surgical Technologists (STs) work under the authority of a surgeon as a member of the operating room (OR) team. In advance of surgery, STs set up OR equipment, sterilize, inventory and organize instruments, prepare solutions and medications, position and drape patients, ensure the sterility of the area immediately around the patient (the sterile field) and assists the surgeon in all aspects of the procedure. During surgery, the ST passes instruments, sponges and supplies to the surgeon, always anticipating their needs and ensuring that sterile conditions are maintained.
STs work in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. Their work environment ranges from cool sterile rooms in advance of surgery to brightly lit, hot ORs during surgery. STs usually work days but may be expected to work emergency on-call duty, working all hours of the night. Surgeons frequently perform multiple surgeries in one day so STs are often on their feet for long periods of time.
STs are paid on an hourly basis and are usually eligible for overtime and vacation, pension/401K, and health care benefits.
The ideal ST is patient, compassionate, highly organized, detailed, and a team player. Additional desired characteristics are: works well under pressure, maintains mental and physical stamina along with manual dexterity.
What it is like to be an ST?
Life and death events are an everyday occurrence so the environment is exhilarating, fast paced, and often challenging. Emotions range from success with celebration to occasional tears. An ST’s shining moment might come from being specifically requested by a respected surgeon. Unlike LVNs or PTAs, relationships with patients tend to be very brief, yet very rewarding. The relationships formed among the OR team are very strong. Every day is a new experience.
ST is No. 82 among America’s 100 Best Jobs according to US News and World Report. ST positions are expected to grow by 15 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is more than double the growth of the average profession.
With additional education, STs can become Licensed Surgical Assistants (LSAs). LSAs perform limited surgical procedures such as opening and closing incisions, implanting devices, and graft harvesting. Many STs go on to be product experts for surgical device companies, working in the OR to train surgeons in new technologies. Because of the growth of the profession, STs are in high demand as educators.
To become a Certified ST, a student must complete an accredited (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs) training program of at least one year while others might enroll in an Associate’s Degree program. Upon graduation, they must pass the licensing exam offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and then apply to their selected state for a license.