Inside the Operating Room: A Day in the Life of a Surgical Technologist
Are you fascinated by the world of medicine, yet unsure if becoming a doctor or a nurse is the right path for you? Have you ever wondered if there are other rewarding and essential jobs in the medical field that combine your love for science and your desire to help people? If the answer is yes, then being a surgical technologist might just be the perfect career choice for you.
In this article, we’ll delve into the exciting and fast-paced world of surgical technologists. We will cover everything you need to know, from their typical day inside the operating room (OR) to the steps you need to take to start your career in this field. So, grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let’s explore the life of a surgical technologist.
Table of Contents
- Who is a Surgical Technologist?
- A Day in the Life of a Surgical Technologist
- Education and Certification
- Skills and Qualities of a Successful Surgical Technologist
- Job Outlook and Salary
- InProgression and Continuing Education
- Final Thoughts
Who is a Surgical Technologist?
A surgical technologist (also called a scrub tech, surgical technician, or operating room technician) is a vital member of the operating room team, working alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses to ensure that surgeries run smoothly and patients are well cared for. They are responsible for preparing the OR, sterilizing and handling surgical instruments, and assisting the surgical team throughout the procedure.
Surgical technologists play a critical role in preventing infections and maintaining a sterile environment during surgeries. Their expertise in managing surgical tools and anticipating the needs of the surgical team is of utmost importance in the OR.
A Day in the Life of a Surgical Technologist
Although no two days are exactly the same for a surgical technologist, let’s explore a typical day inside the operating room. Whether it’s an emergency surgery or a scheduled procedure, a surgical technologist’s day usually involves the following stages:
The day begins with the surgical technologist reviewing the surgery schedule, gathering information on the patients, and familiarizing themselves with the specific needs and requirements of each procedure. After that, they prepare the operating room by ensuring it is clean and setting up the necessary equipment, such as surgical lasers or electrocautery devices.
They also gather and count the required surgical instruments, making sure every tool is sterilized and ready for use. In addition to that, they inspect and don the sterilized gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to maintain a sterile environment.
Surgical Assistance and Instrumentation
When the patient is brought into the OR, the surgical technologist works with the team to position the patient on the operating table and drape them with sterilized sheets to expose the surgical site. They also help in applying antiseptic solutions to the incision area.
During the surgery, the surgical technologist passes the necessary instruments to the surgeon, anticipating their needs while keeping an accurate count of tools and supplies. They may also be responsible for holding retractors, cutting sutures, and operating certain surgical equipment under the surgeon’s guidance. Their role in the success of the surgery and patient safety is indispensable.
After the surgery is completed, the surgical technologist assists in applying dressings to the incision site and transferring the patient safely to the recovery room. They are then responsible for cleaning the operating room, disposing of used supplies, and restocking and sterilizing instruments for the next surgery.
Education and Certification
To become a surgical technologist, you will need to complete a formal education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). These programs typically take 12-24 months to complete and can be found in community colleges, vocational schools, or even some universities.
The coursework covers a variety of topics, including medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and surgical procedures. Additionally, students gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations and practicums in real operating rooms.
After completing the program, it’s highly recommended to become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) by passing the certification exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Some states even require surgical technologists to be certified, and obtaining this certification can improve employment opportunities and enhance career growth.
Skills and Qualities of a Successful Surgical Technologist
Becoming a successful surgical technologist requires a unique combination of skills and qualities. Here are some of the most important traits that contribute to success in this field:
- Attention to detail: Surgical technologists must always be on their toes, ensuring every instrument is accounted for and the operating room remains sterile. A minor oversight could have serious consequences for the patient.
Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination: These professionals need to be adept at handling delicate surgical instruments and ensuring they are in the right hands at the right time during surgery.
Adaptability: Procedures within the operating room can change quickly, and surgical technologists must be able to adjust to new situations and instructions efficiently.
Stress management: The OR can be a high-pressure environment, and surgical technologists need to remain calm and composed under pressure to perform their duties effectively.
Interpersonal skills: Surgical technologists work closely with other team members in the OR, so effective communication and teamwork skills are essential.
Stamina: These professionals stand for long periods during surgeries and might need to handle multiple procedures in a single day.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for surgical technologists is expected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is attributed to the aging population, which will likely require more surgical procedures in the coming years.
As of May 2020, the median annual wage for surgical technologists was $49,710, with the highest 10% earning more than $73,110. The highest-paying industries for this occupation include outpatient care centers, specialty hospitals, and general medical/surgical hospitals.
InProgression and Continuing Education
For those seeking career advancement, there are several options available. One possibility is becoming a Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA), which requires additional education and experience. As a CSFA, you’ll have a more hands-on role in the surgery, providing direct assistance to the surgeon and greater responsibility during the procedure.
You may also choose to specialize in a specific surgical discipline, such as open-heart surgery, neurosurgery, or orthopedics. These specialties often require additional training and may lead to higher pay and more satisfying career opportunities.
Continuing education is an essential aspect of maintaining your CST certification, as it ensures that you remain up-to-date with the latest advances in surgical technology and best practices. The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) provides a variety of resources for ongoing professional development, including seminars, webinars, and conferences.
A career as a surgical technologist is both rewarding and challenging, offering a unique opportunity to work inside the operating room and contribute to the well-being of patients. With growing demand and various paths to career advancement, becoming a surgical technologist can be an excellent choice for those who want to make a difference in the world of healthcare.
Are you interested in becoming a surgical technologist, or do you have experience in this field? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this article with your friends who might be considering a career in the OR.