Surgical technicians work in a wide variety of settings in the medical care industry. Part of the standard operating room personnel, surgical technicians typically work in a team consisting of one or more surgeons, an anesthesiologist and a registered nurse. In most cases, surgical technicians work under supervision of primary surgeons, unless laws in a particular state or policies in a particular hospital prohibit this arrangement.
Most surgical technicians start out as ‘scrubs’ in an operating room. This role requires them to prepare the operating room, a task which involves preparing surgical instruments and ensuring their sterility, and ensuring the availability of surgical equipment and medical supplies. It is the responsibility of the surgical technician to ensure that items such as surgical gowns, gloves, drapes, tubing, and medication dispensing equipment is ready for use in a surgical procedure. Surgical technicians are also expected to ensure that all equipment is working as intended.
Prior to a surgical procedure, surgical technicians are also expected to assist the surgeon in preparations. They will be required to help the surgeon with putting on the gown and gloves, and to assist surgeons in setting up sterile drapes over patients.
Surgical technicians play an especially crucial role during actual surgery, when they will have to anticipate the surgeon’s needs. This task typically involves handing surgical equipment and instruments over to the surgeon. They may also be expected to maintain a count of all the instruments and sharp objects used in the procedure, and handing over medications and solutions to the surgeon. In some cases, surgical technicians may be asked to handle tissue specimens and to ensure the continued sterility of the operation.
Depending on state laws and hospital policies, surgical technicians may be assigned an assistant circulator role, which places them in direct contact with patients. In such roles, surgical technicians may be called upon to assist in the transport of patients to and from surgery, assists in the positioning of patients on the operating table, and shaving the patient and disinfecting the site of incision prior to surgery.
There are a number of academic requirements expected of surgical technicians. Education and training for candidates is available from a variety of educational institutions including universities, junior colleges, community colleges, vocational schools, and hospitals. Aspiring surgical technicians may also obtain the necessary education by enlisting in the military.
Education programs for surgical technicians last for 12 months at a minimum for a certificate programs, and up to two years for an associate degree program. For most such programs, the only prerequisite is a high school diploma, although most programs expect applicants to have completed prerequisite courses in basic sciences and medical terminologies.
Among the prerequisites to taking the national surgical technology certification exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) are completion of a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)-accredited or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)-accredited surgical technician program, completion of a surgical first assistant program (also accredited by the CAAHEP), or completion of a surgical technician program in a military setting.