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Surgical technologists 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. They are supervised by surgeons, registered nurses or other members of the surgical team.
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 non-sterile equipment, check to ensure it is all working properly and make adjustments as necessary.
Technologists transport patients to the operating room, help position them on the operating table and cover them with sterile surgical "drapes." They help prepare patients for surgery by washing, shaving and disinfecting incision sites and observe patients' vital signs during surgery.
They also check charts and assist the surgical team with putting on sterile gowns and gloves.
To learn more about this career, watch a video about a career as a surgical technologist (in the Health Science category).
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 programs offered by community and junior colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals and the military. A program can take from nine months (for a certificate) to two years (for an associate degree) to complete. 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 certificate in surgical technology (CST) upon graduation, but approximately 40% of the available programs lead to an associate degree. Graduation from a surgical technology program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the only pathway to eligibility for the CST credential.
Students from CAAHEP-accredited surgical technologist and surgical assisting programs are eligible to take the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting national certified surgical technologist examination and certified surgical first assistant examination.
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Allied Health Professions
Last updated: April 21, 2014
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