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Surgical technologists assist in surgical operations under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. They are members of operating room teams, which most commonly include surgeons, anesthesiologists, and circulating nurses.
Surgical technologists work under the delegatory authority of the surgeon, unless prohibited by state law or hospital policy. Before an operation, they help prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes, and sterile solutions. Surgical technologists assemble the sterile and nonsterile equipment, check to ensure it all is working properly, and make adjustments as necessry. They also help prepare patients for surgery by washing, shaving, and disinfecting incision sites. Technologists transport patients to the operating room, help position them on the operating table, and cover them with sterile surgical "drapes." They also observe patients' vital signs, check charts, and assist the surgical team with putting on sterile gowns and gloves.
To learn more about this career, watch the surgical technologist video profile.
Surgical technologists work in clean, well-lighted, cool environments. They must stand for long periods and remain alert during operations. At times they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.
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Surgical technologists receive their training in formal programs offered by community and junior colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals, and the military. Most programs do not require more than a high school education for program entrance, but many do require applicants to have taken and passed prerequisite courses (usually in the basic sciences and medical terminology).
Many surgical tech programs lead to a CST (Certificate in Surgical Technology) upon graduation, but approximately 40% of the available programs lead to an associate degree.
Note: Graduation from a CAAHEP-accredited surgical technology program is the only pathway to eligibility for the CST credential. Search for schools that provide training for this career.
For a list of CAAHEP-accredited programs, see the Association of Surgical Technologists website.
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Allied Health Professions
Last updated: March 11, 2014
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