Becoming a Surgical Tech: A Pathway to Success in Healthcare
In today’s rapidly growing healthcare industry, one role that continues to gain importance and emerge as a promising career is that of a surgical technologist, also known as a surgical tech or scrub tech. If you are someone who is interested in a career in healthcare but not sure where to start, this article will provide you with all the information needed to help you make an informed decision about becoming a surgical tech.
With the target audience being primarily young women between the ages of 20 and 35, this article will walk you through the steps required to become a surgical tech, the education and certification process involved, as well as the job prospects and potential career growth.
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Surgical Tech
- Becoming a Surgical Tech: The Process
- Education Requirements
- Certification Requirements
- Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
- Career Advancement Opportunities
1. Introduction to Surgical Tech
Surgical technologists are essential members of the operating room team who work closely with surgeons, nurses, and anesthesia personnel to ensure that surgeries go smoothly and efficiently. Their primary responsibilities include:
- Preparing the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment
- Assisting the surgical team in putting on sterile gowns and gloves
- Ensuring that all necessary supplies and equipment are available during the surgery
- Passing surgical instruments to the surgeon during the procedure
- Keeping an accurate count of instruments, sponges, and other items used during surgery
- Assisting with the application of dressings and bandages after surgery
With their attention to detail and knowledge of surgical procedures, surgical techs play a vital role in the successful completion of surgeries and the well-being of patients.
2. Becoming a Surgical Tech: The Process
If the idea of becoming a surgical tech has piqued your interest, it’s essential to understand the steps involved in achieving this goal. The typical process for becoming a surgical tech includes the following steps:
- Complete high school or obtain a GED: A high school diploma or equivalent is required to enroll in a surgical tech program.
Graduate from an accredited surgical tech program: These programs are offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. The duration of the program may vary, but most programs can be completed in one to two years.
Obtain certification: While certification is not mandatory in every state, most employers prefer certified surgical techs. There are several organizations that offer certification.
Complete clinical experience: Many surgical tech programs include a clinical component, which provides students with hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. This experience proves invaluable when seeking employment.
Apply for jobs and start working: After completing education and certification requirements, you can apply for jobs in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and surgical clinics.
3. Education Requirements
Completing a surgical tech program is a crucial step in becoming a successful surgical technologist. Surgical tech programs are offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. The curriculum includes a combination of classroom instruction, lab work, and hands-on experience in a healthcare setting.
There are two primary types of surgical tech programs:
- Certificate and diploma programs: These programs generally take 9-15 months to complete and provide the fundamental knowledge and skills required to start working as a surgical tech.
Associate degree programs: These programs usually take two years to complete and provide a more in-depth understanding of surgical techniques and medical technology. An associate degree may provide a higher starting salary and better job opportunities.
Courses in surgical technology programs may include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Surgical procedures and techniques
- Operating room safety
- Sterilization and disinfection
- Patient care and communication
Be sure to attend a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Graduating from an accredited program will allow you to take the certification exam and increase your chances of finding employment.
4. Certification Requirements
While not all states require surgical technologists to be certified, obtaining certification can increase your job prospects and demonstrate your commitment to the profession. There are several organizations that offer certification for surgical technologists:
- The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA): The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential is offered by the NBSTSA. To qualify for the exam, you must have graduated from an accredited surgical tech program or have equivalent military training. The exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions, and the certification must be renewed every four years through continuing education or re-taking the exam.
The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT): The Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) credential is offered by the NCCT. Eligibility for the exam includes graduation from an accredited surgical tech program or equivalent military training, as well as work experience or completion of an approved internship. The certification must be renewed annually through continuing education.
While certification is not required in every state, it can open doors to more job opportunities and potentially higher salaries.
5. Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 9% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is largely due to the increasing number of surgical procedures being performed as the population ages.
The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for surgical technologists was $49,710 in 2020. Salaries can vary depending on factors like education, certification, experience, and geographic location.
In general, surgical techs with more experience, education, and certification can earn higher salaries. Working in specialty hospitals, outpatient care centers, and government facilities may also offer higher-paying opportunities.
6. Career Advancement Opportunities
As a surgical tech, there are numerous opportunities for professional growth and career advancement. Some options include:
- Specialization: You can choose to specialize in a specific surgical discipline, such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, or cardiovascular surgery. This may require additional education, training, or certification and can lead to higher salaries and more job opportunities.
Surgical first assisting: With additional training and certification, you can become a surgical first assistant, which involves a more hands-on role during surgery, such as suturing and retracting tissue.
Education and training: Experienced surgical techs can transition into roles as educators or trainers, teaching new surgical techs or providing continuing education to experienced professionals.
Leadership roles: With experience and training, surgical techs can move into leadership roles, such as operating room supervisors or managers, overseeing other surgical techs, and managing the daily operations of an operating room.
Furthering your education: By pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, such as healthcare management or nursing, you can open up even more career opportunities within the healthcare industry.
Becoming a surgical technologist can be a rewarding and fulfilling career for those who are interested in the healthcare field and possess the skills and dedication required to succeed in this profession.
By following the steps outlined above and completing the required education and certification, you can embark on a career as a surgical tech and contribute to the success of surgeries and the well-being of patients.
Now that you have a better understanding of the surgical tech profession, take some time to reflect on whether this career path aligns with your personal and professional goals. Remember that investing in your education and certification will undoubtedly help you attain success in the rapidly growing healthcare industry.