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What does a Surgical Technologist do?

Surgical technologists work in operating rooms, assisting surgeons, anesthesiologists and circulating nurses to help carry out operations. They have to be knowledgeable, alert and detail-oriented, in that they play a central role in preparing patients for surgery and ensuring the doctor has all the tools and equipment he or she needs to safely complete a surgery.

The surgical technician's job starts before the operation when you wash, shave and disinfect incision sites and move patients into operating rooms. You may also be responsible for monitoring the patient's heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs, and help the surgeons don their sterile gowns and gloves.

During the surgery, the surgical technician hands the surgeon the tools needed, anticipating the doctor's needs and performing other helpful tasks, such as cutting sutures, holding retractors and keeping track of all the surgical equipment. When the operation is over, the surgical technician transfers the patient to recovery rooms, and then returns to restock and clean the operating room.

Educational requirements for surgical technicians

It takes anywhere from nine to 24 months to earn a certificate, diploma or associate degree in surgical technology. Educational programs are offered in many colleges and universities, as well as through hospitals and the military.

Surgical technicians study anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology and related medical subjects, and courses typically involve both classroom and clinical work. Most surgical technician graduates go on to earn their certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting by passing a certification exam.

In addition to completing an accredited training program, you can qualify to take a certification exam by completing a hospital training program, which usually lasts about two years, or by acquiring seven years of on-the-job training.

Industries and special fields for surgical technicians

Most surgical technicians work for hospitals, although some work for outpatient surgical centers or in dental offices where surgery is conducted. Hospitals are using an increasing number of surgical technicians as they attempt to reduce health care costs by replacing higher-paid nurses who previously were needed in operating rooms.

Many surgical technicians advance in their profession by specializing in a certain type of surgery, such as neurosurgery or organ-transplant surgery. Some get additional training and move up to the role of first assistant in an operating room, and others advance their careers by going to work for insurance companies, medical supply services or companies that sell operating equipment.

Surgical technologists who receive special training in the latest medical equipment, including laser technology or fiber optics, are qualified to work on an increasing variety of surgeries and are in greater demand.

Job outlook for surgical technicians

The predicted volume of surgeries is expected to climb, and demand for surgical technicians is expected to grow 25 percent--much faster than average, the BLS said.

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