While patients primarily consider the skill of a surgeon before agreeing to procedures, much of a surgery's success is really determined by the entire surgical team. A surgical technologist is an important part of this team.
Working under the direction of surgeons and nurses, surgical technologists prepare the operating room (OR) by setting up, sterilizing, and testing equipment. They prepare the patients by shaving and disinfecting incision sites and transporting them to the room. They assist surgeons during the procedure by passing them instruments and help manage specimens. Finally, they help transport patients to the recovery area and help clean the OR.
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How to Prepare for a Surgical Technology Career
While surgical technologist programs vary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes one typically earns a surgical technology degree or certificate in nine to 24 months. There are more than 400 programs across the United States that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP); most require a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. Surgical technologist classes typically provide training in medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and medical ethics.
Many surgical technologists seek voluntary certification to bolster employment and salary prospects. The Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist and the National Center for Competency Testing both offer certifications, though requirements vary.
According to the BLS, surgical technologists earned a median salary of $38,740 in May, 2008, with the middle 50 percent earning between $32,490 and $46,910. Surgical technology careers are expected to grow much faster than the national average for all careers through 2018, and prospects are best for those who are certified or willing to relocate.