What Education Do You Need to Be a Surgical Tech?

Surgical technologists are an important part of the surgical team. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help surgeons during procedures. If you’re interested in becoming a surgical tech, you may be wondering what kind of education you need.

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Surgical Technician Job Description

A surgical technician, also called a surgical technologist, is an allied health professional who works alongside surgeons, nurses and other medical staff during invasive surgical procedures. Surgical techs are an important part of the surgical team and their duties include preparing the operating room and sterilizing instruments and equipment.

Duties

A surgical technician, also called a scrub tech, is an allied health professional who works alongside surgeons, registered nurses, and other operating room personnel during surgical procedures. Surgical techs typically have completed a postsecondary educational program and must pass a nationally recognized certification exam to earn their credential.

The duties of a surgical technician include preparing the operating room for surgery by setting up sterile equipment and instruments, ensuring that the patient is properly positioned on the operating table, and passing instruments to the surgeon during the procedure. Surgical techs may also be responsible for caring for the patient before and after surgery, including transporting them to and from the operating room and providing postoperative instruction.

Skills

To work as a surgical technician, also called a scrub tech or surgical technologist, you need interpersonal, physical and mental skills. Surgical techs must:

– Be able to work well under pressure and follow strict instructions
– Be detail oriented and able to maintain focus for long periods of time
– Be able to stand for long periods and lift heavy objects
– Have good hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity
– Be able to work in a sterile environment

In addition to these basic skills, surgical techs need to have formal training from an accredited program. Surgical technologist programs typically last about nine months to two years and award a certificate, diploma or Associate’s degree.

Required Education

While some surgical technologists are trained on the job, most complete a postsecondary educational program in surgical technology, which typically last about a year. Most programs leading to certification are offered at community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools. These programs include classroom, laboratory, and clinical components. Classroom instruction focuses on topics such as medical ethics, terminology, anatomy, and physiology.

Laboratory work provides students with opportunities to practice sterilization techniques, wound care, and setting up operating room equipment. Clinical experience is usually obtained in hospitals and is designed to give students practical experience under the supervision of experienced surgical technologists.

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How to Become a Surgical Technician in 5 Steps

Becoming a surgical tech requires completing a surgical technology program, which typically takes about a year. You will also need to pass a certification exam and earn a state license, if required. In this article, we will cover the steps you need to take to become a surgical tech.

Step 1: Graduate from high school or earn a GED

To become a surgical technician, you will need at least a high school diploma or a GED. Many surgical tech programs may require that you have some prior experience working in the medical field, so if you have the opportunity to work or volunteer in a hospital or doctor’s office, take it! Once you have your high school diploma or GED, you will be ready to move on to step 2.

Step 2: Complete an accredited surgical technology program
The next step to becoming a surgical technician is to complete an accredited surgical technology program. These programs typically last about 1-2 years and award either a certificate or an associate’s degree upon completion. During your time in the program, you will receive both classroom and hands-on instruction in topics such as medical terminology, human anatomy, physiology, sterilization techniques and more.

Step 3: Pass the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam
After you have completed an accredited surgical tech program, the next step is to pass the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Passing this exam will earn you the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential and allow you to work as a surgical technologist in most states.

Step 4: Consider earning voluntary credentials
Although not required, there are voluntary credentialing organizations that offer additional certification for surgical technologists. Earning one or more of these credentials can show employers that you are committed to your career and willing to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Some of the most popular credentials include:
-Certified Orthopedic Technologist (COT) offered by the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST)
-Advanced Certified Cardiovascular Perfusionist (ACCP) offered by American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusionists (ABCP)

Step 5: Stay current on infection control guidelines
Since infection control is such an important part of a surgical technologist’s job, it is important to stay up-to-date on all infection control guidelines. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses offers a free course on infection prevention and control for surgical techs that can help you stay current on best practices.

Step 2: Enroll in an accredited surgical technology program

While a few surgical technologists are trained on the job, most natural progression into the profession occurs by completing an accredited surgical technology program. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are responsible for accrediting more than 350 surgical technology programs across the country.

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Prospective students can begin researching and considering different options for accredited programs well in advance of applying or enrolling. Programs typically take around two years to complete and may be offered at the certificate, diploma or associate’s degree level. Some programs may offer online coursework, though clinical rotations will need to be completed in person.

Common program curriculum for surgical technologist programs include coursework in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, patient safety and infection control. Students will also get plenty of opportunities to participate in hands-on learning experiences in laboratory settings as well as through externships or clinical rotations.

Step 3: Complete a surgical technology internship

Your surgical technology education does not stop in the classroom. Many accredited surgical technology schools offer internships as part of their programs. An internship gives you the chance to work side-by-side with surgeons, scrub nurses, and other surgical techs in a real healthcare setting. It is an opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a real-life setting and to get a feel for what a career as a surgical tech entails. Most internships last one semester and are completed during your last year of schooling.

Step 4: Become certified as a surgical technologist

After completing a surgical technologist program, many technologists choose to become certified. Although certification is not always required, some employers prefer or require certification. Certification may also help technologists advance in their careers.

There are two main certifying agencies for surgical technologists:

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offer the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. To be eligible for this credential, individuals must pass a written and Practical Exam. The NBSTSA offers study materials to help prepare for the exams.
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC-STSA) offer the Tech in Surgery – Certified (TS-C) credential. To be eligible for this credential, individuals must graduate from an accredited surgical technologist program and pass an exam.

Step 5: Consider earning a bachelor’s degree

While a surgical technician certificate or associate degree will qualify you for many entry-level positions, some employers may prefer or require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in surgical technology can be completed in four years and may offer more clinical and advanced coursework than a certificate or associate degree program.

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Surgical Technician Certification and Licensure

To work as a surgical tech, you need to have a certification from an accredited program. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) are the two organizations that accredit surgical tech programs.

Voluntary Certification

While certification is not required in some states, most facilities prefer or require certification. Certification shows that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your job well. The two most common certifying organizations are the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and the National Healthcare Association (NHA). To become certified, you must pass a written exam. Most certification exams cover the following topics:

-Basic surgical techniques
-Anesthesia
-Infection control
-Patient safety
-Surgical instrumentation
-Surgical procedures

Licensure

Though not all states require licensure for surgical techs, employers may prefer to hire those who are licensed. Certification by the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist (LCC-ST) is one way to demonstrate competency and qualify for a state license. To earn LCC-ST certification, candidates must graduate from a surgical technology program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Candidates must also complete a practicum in surgical technology, as well asPassing a written examination.

Surgical Technician Salary and Job Outlook

Becoming a surgical tech requires completing an accredited surgical technology program. Though not all states have certification requirements, many employers prefer to hire certified surgical techs. Surgical techs typically need to complete a postsecondary educational program and earn certification.

Salary

In order to become a surgical tech, you need to have a postsecondary certification or an associate’s degree in surgical technology. The median annual salary for a surgical technologist is $47,300, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% earn more than $69,710 per year, and the bottom 10% earn less than $33,480 per year.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for surgical technicians is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of surgical techs will grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This demand is largely due to an aging population and the consequent need for more surgeries. As baby boomers age, they will require more medical procedures, both invasive and non-invasive.

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