A surgical technologist performs a variety of responsibilities before, during and after surgical operations. Surgical technologists are also referred to as a surgical assistant or operating room technician, depending on the employer. They prepare an operating room for surgery by sterilizing and setting up the appropriate equipment. They also prepare patients for surgery, then assist surgeons and other medical professionals in an operating room during surgical procedures. Being a surgical assistant requires a strong attention to detail, dexterity and the ability to stand for long periods of time in an operating room. Surgical technologist careers start by attending one of many surgical technologist schools.
Surgical technologist programs generally require a highs school diploma to start training. Coursework in surgical technology general includes sciences, health, anatomy and medical terminology. Students also receive practical training sanitizing and preparing different types of surgical tools and equipment. Completion of training in surgical technology results in a diploma or associate’s degree and generally takes about two years to complete.
Although requirements for surgical technologists vary greatly by state, employment opportunities can increase for those who obtain the surgical technologist certification administered by The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. Other nationally recognized organizations, such as the National Healthcare Association also offer additional credentials. Surgical technologist schools prepare students for each state’s credentialing and the national certifying exam during their last few weeks of training. Surgical technologist certification generally requires renewal every few years and continuing education.
Employment opportunities for surgical technologists are expected to increase about 19 percent, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth is expected due to advances in medicine and technology, making surgical procedures safer and less complicated. Employment of surgical technologists will also reduce costs for medical facilities, because other occupations that assist surgeons often pay higher wages. Advances in technology allow surgical technologists to perform the responsibilities that were once performed by other health care professionals with higher degrees.
Surgical technologists not only work in hospitals, but physician’s offices, outpatient care centers, dental offices and for a variety of other health practitioners. Faster, less-evasive surgical procedures allow patients to complete surgical procedures and return home the same day. A surgical technologist salary generally starts between $14 to $16 per hour, according to BLS. The average salary is about $21 per hour. Surgical technologists with experience and credentials can earn over $24 per hour, and continue to increase their salary.