August 24, 2023

Scrubbing into Success: How To Become a Surgical Tech

A surgical tech prepares surgical instruments in an operating room.

Imagine being at the forefront of life-saving surgeries and medical procedures. Becoming a Surgical Tech propels you into a world of hands-on experiences and boundless growth. You'll wield precision instruments that drive surgical excellence, making a tangible impact on patients' lives.

Let’s discover the path to becoming a Surgical Technologist, explore essential skills, and find exciting opportunities in this dynamic profession. Whether you're passionate about surgery, fascinated by instruments, or seeking purpose in your career, we'll guide you to success as a Surgical Tech.

Table of contents:

What is a Surgical Tech?

Surgical Technologists, also known as surgical techs, are essential members of the surgical team, ensuring smooth and successful procedures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for surgical techs is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031. Their responsibilities include preparing the operating room, organizing surgical instruments, and providing essential assistance to surgeons during operations. Surgical techs play a crucial role in the surgical process, expertly maintaining sterile environments and predicting the surgeon's needs.

How to become a Certified Surgical Tech

Step 1: Research and preparation

Before you begin your journey to become a surgical tech, take the time to research the profession thoroughly. Learn about the roles, responsibilities, and work environment of surgical techs to ensure it aligns with your career aspirations.

Step 2: Obtain a high school diploma or GED

To become a surgical tech, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent. If you haven't completed high school, consider obtaining a General Educational Development (GED) certificate to meet the minimum educational requirement.

Step 3: Enroll in a surgical technology program

The next crucial step is to enroll in a Surgical Technology program. You can find these surgical technologist programs in community colleges, technical schools, and some hospitals. The program duration varies depending on the type of credential you pursue:

  • Certified surgical tech programs: Usually take around 9 to 12 months to complete.
  • Diploma programs: Typically require 12 to 18 months of study.
  • Associate degree programs: Take about 2 years to complete.

Step 4: Clinical training and hands-on experience

Surgical Technology programs include hands-on clinical training, where students gain valuable experience in real-world surgical settings. This practical training helps you apply classroom knowledge and develop crucial skills for the operating room.

Step 5: Certification

While certification is not mandatory in all states, becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) can significantly enhance your career prospects. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers the CST certification exam. To be eligible for the exam, you must complete an accredited Surgical Technology program or have relevant work experience.

How long does it take to become a Surgical Tech?

The time it takes to become a surgical tech depends on the educational path you choose. As mentioned earlier, you can complete a certificate program in about 9 to 12 months, a diploma program in approximately 12 to 18 months, or an associate degree program in around 2 years. Each option equips you with the essential knowledge and skills to thrive in the operating room.

While the duration of your educational journey may vary, keep in mind that additional time may be needed if you decide to pursue optional certifications or take longer to complete your clinical training.

Skills required

Becoming a successful surgical technician requires a diverse skill set, including:

  • Attention to Detail: Surgical techs must carefully follow protocols and ensure they sterilize all equipment properly, paying close attention to detail.
  • Team Player: In the fast-paced operating room, collaboration and effective communication with the surgical team are essential.
  • Calm Under Pressure: Surgical techs must remain composed during emergencies or high-stress situations.
  • Technical Proficiency: Proficiency in using surgical instruments and equipment is critical for this role.

Preparing the operating room

Before the surgeon makes the first incision, surgical techs take charge of preparing the operating room. Adhering to strict infection control protocols, they sanitize the surgical suite to ensure a clean environment. They also ensure the sterility of every surgical instrument to maintain a pristine and safe environment for the surgical procedure.

The layout and organization of the operating room, in order to maintain a sterile environment, fall under the purview of the surgical tech. In a methodical manner, they arrange surgical equipment and instruments, gowns, gloves, and supplies for easy access during the procedure. This attention to detail minimizes delays and optimizes workflow, promoting a smooth and efficient operating room.

Predicting the surgeon's needs

In the operating room, surgical technologists work to demonstrate their extraordinary ability to anticipate the surgeon's needs with keen intuition. They innately understand the specific requirements of each surgical procedure, enabling them to provide the necessary instruments and supplies preemptively.

A skilled surgical tech seamlessly passes instruments to the surgeon without verbal communication, ensuring a smooth and effective exchange. In order to allow the surgeon to focus on the surgery, they stay focused and think quickly. They also handle unexpected situations and provide necessary tools promptly.

Opportunities and work settings

As a surgical tech, you'll have various opportunities for employment in different medical settings, including:

  • Hospitals: The majority of surgical techs work in hospitals, assisting with surgeries in various specialties.
  • Physician's Offices: Some surgical specialties, such as dermatology and ophthalmology, offer opportunities to work in outpatient clinics.
  • Military Medical Facilities: The armed forces also employ surgical techs to support military personnel and their families.
  • Ambulatory Surgical Centers: These centers focus on same-day surgical procedures, providing surgical techs with a unique work setting outside of traditional hospital environments.

Once you have gained one year of experience in the operating room, a world of new opportunities opens up, including the potential to be your own boss and control your schedule. By collaborating with platforms like CareRev, you can take charge and pick up Surgical Tech shifts at your convenience, granting you the flexibility to work on your terms in a variety of work settings near you.

Navigating surgical specializations

As you gather experience and skills in the operating room, you might find yourself drawn to a specific area of surgery. If you're really interested in neurosurgery or cardiovascular procedures, specializing helps you become an expert in your chosen field. It's like honing a craft, where you'll gain in-depth knowledge, refine your skills, and become a sought-after authority.

Elevating your career involves more than just focusing on a niche; it's also about demonstrating your commitment to growth. Acquiring additional certifications is a testament to your dedication, demonstrating to employers that you're always improving.

Embracing continuous learning

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the journey of a Surgical Tech is an unceasing quest for growth and knowledge. Once you've secured your position as a skilled and certified Surgical Tech, it's essential to embrace the culture of continuous learning. New surgical techniques, technologies, and medical devices are constantly emerging in the medical field, changing how surgeries are done. Stay ahead of the curve by attending workshops, seminars, and conferences to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date.

Your journey as a Surgery Tech

In your hands, you now hold the scalpel that can carve a remarkable path in the realm of surgical technology. Starting this exciting journey is more than picking a career; it's embracing a calling that needs accuracy, compassion, and unwavering commitment. Each surgery you assist in is a symphony of skill and teamwork, orchestrating life-changing outcomes.

As you enter this dynamic field, remember that your hands wield instruments of transformation, your actions open new possibilities, and your spirit radiates hope. The operating room calls, the future of healthcare awaits, and you, the Surgical Tech, are ready to make an indelible mark.

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