The number of employed surgical technologists nationwide is expected to increase by 30% in the period from 2012 to 2022. This assessment was made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and may be attributed to the rise in the number of people living longer and requiring specialist medical care services–including surgical procedures–in the future.
This development is expected to reduce the waiting periods that patients will have to go through in order to receive elective surgery. At present, the shortage of qualified surgical technologists can delay surgical procedures by several weeks. Even emergency care services, which should be delivered immediately, are often delayed by a few hours due to the lack of qualified technologists.
Most people tend to downplay the role of surgical technologists, or are unaware of the full extent of the service that they provide in the medical setting. April Leigh, director of surgical services at Mercy Medical Center said that most people remain unaware of the role that surgical technologists perform in the typical operating room, and that many do not even know of the existence of the profession. Describing the field of surgical technology as “exciting” and “innovative”, Leigh stated that more young people might be interested in the profession if they knew that it existed.
Surgical tech programs typically last from nine to 24 months. The job requires thorough knowledge of hundreds of specialized pieces of equipment, and training programs in such schools at Western Iowa Tech routinely employ the use of flashcards in order to aid students in memorizing the names of these tools.
For aspiring technologists, the years of study and training result in the eligibility to join in on supervised hospital sessions also known as clinicals. In order to qualify, students will have to score 80% or more on an instrument test.
Surgical technologists should be prepared for long shifts, during which time they must maintain full alertness. The job also often requires technologists to be on their feet for several hours. At Mercy Medical Center, surgical techs typically work 12-hour shifts. In addition, most are often on call even after the end-of-shift, so there is always a possibility that the work day may last even longer than 12 hours.
Surgical technologists at Mercy typically handle surgical cases, assisting surgeons with anywhere from one to six operations a day. These may include procedures such as hysterectomies, hernia treatment, and joint replacement.
A typical day for surgical technologists often begins with the preparation of the operating room. From the central supply unit of the hospital, techs gather the specialized tools and equipment that the surgeon may require in order to carry out the scheduled procedure. In cases wherein the procedure will be performed via robotics, the tech’s role may include setting up the necessary instruments, attaching them to the robotic arms, and then placing a sterile drape over the equipment. After setting up the medical equipment and the tools and making sure that everything is functioning properly, the tech then scrubs up and gets ready to assist the surgeon.