How to Become a Surgical Tech

If you are looking for a new career, you may want to consider becoming a surgical tech. But what does it take to become a surgical tech?

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Introduction

A surgical technologist, also called a scrub tech, is an allied health professional who works closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses and other surgical personnel to ensure that operations are conducted safely and effectively. Surgical technologists typically complete a postsecondary educational program and must become certified prior to entering the workforce. Read on to learn more about how to become a surgical technologist.

What is a Surgical Tech?

A surgical technologist is an allied health professional who works closely with surgeons and other medical staff during invasive surgical procedures. Surgical techs play a vital role in patient care and safety, and are responsible for ensuring that the operating room is clean and organized and that all of the necessary surgical instruments and equipment are sterilized and ready for use.

Becoming a surgical technologist requires completing an accredited training program, which can be completed in as little as nine months. Upon successful completion of the program, surgical techs must pass a national certification exam in order to be eligible for employment.

Surgical Tech Job Description

A surgical technologist, also called a scrub tech, is an allied health professional who works alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses and other surgical staff during operative procedures. Surgical technologists have many responsibilities, including preparing operating rooms, sterile instruments and equipment, stocking supplies and handling specimen jars. They also might handle exposed tissues and suture materials and pass instruments to surgeons during surgeries.

The duties of a surgical technologist vary depending on the size of the facility in which they work. In smaller facilities, techs might be responsible for more aspects of patient care than in larger ones. Surgical technologists typically complete a postsecondary educational program and must pass a certification exam to become credentialed.

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Surgical Tech Salary

Wages for surgical technologists will vary depending on their experience, geographic location and the type of facility where they work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for surgical technologists was $47,300 in May 2016, with the top 10 percent earning more than $68,000 and the bottom 10 percent earning less than $33,000.

How to Become a Surgical Tech

Surgical techs are in high demand. They play a vital role in the operating room, assisting surgeons and other medical personnel during surgeries. If you’re interested in becoming a surgical tech, there are a few things you need to do. First, you’ll need to get a high school diploma or equivalent. Then, you’ll need to complete an accredited surgical technology program. After that, you’ll need to pass the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. Finally, you’ll need to get a state license, if required. Let’s get into the details.

Step One: Research Surgical Tech Programs

The first step to becoming a surgical tech is to research and enroll in an accredited surgical technology program. Many community colleges, technical schools and even some hospitals offer this type of training, which typically takes about a year to complete. During your studies, you’ll likely receive both classroom instruction and hands-on training in a laboratory setting. You’ll learn about topics such as medical ethics, infection control, human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and surgical procedures.

Step Two: Complete a Surgical Tech Program

While there are a number of ways to become a surgical tech, most people complete a surgical tech program. This program will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in this career.

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Most surgical tech programs are completed in about nine months, although some programs may take up to two years to complete. During your program, you will take classes such as human anatomy, medical terminology, and surgical procedures. You will also spend time in clinical rotations, where you will gain hands-on experience working with patients.

Once you have completed your surgical tech program, you will be eligible to take the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. This exam is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Once you have passed this exam, you will be a certified surgical technologist and be able to work in this career.

Step Three: Obtain Certification

While not required in all states, surgical technologists can become certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). To be eligible for certification, candidates must have completed an accredited surgical technology program and have graduated from high school or earned a GED. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check and drug screening.

NBSTSA offers two levels of certification: Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) and Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C). Both certifications require candidates to pass a written exam. The CST exam is a computer-based exam that consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, while the TS-C exam is a paper-and-pencil exam that consists of 170 multiple-choice questions.

Surgical Tech Career Outlook

For those considering a career in surgical technology, now is a good time to enter the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical techs is expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations between 2010 and 2020.* In addition, the mean annual wage for surgical techs was $47,300 in May 2010,** making it a relatively well-paying occupation.

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Becoming a surgical tech typically requires completing an accredited surgical technology program, which can be completed in as little as nine months. During their training, students receive both classroom and clinical instruction in such topics as anesthesia, sterile processing and human anatomy. Once they have completed their training, surgical techs must pass a certification exam administered by either the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the National Healthcare Association. Some states also require surgical techs to be licensed.

With the aging of the large baby boomer population, an increase in the number of surgeries being performed each year and a decrease in the number of medical students choosing surgery as a specialty, the demand for qualified surgical techs is expected to continue to grow in coming years.

Conclusion

You now know how to become a surgical tech! All that’s left is to take the necessary steps to put your plan into action. First, research surgical tech programs to find the one that best fits your needs. Then, complete the required training and earn your certification. After that, you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding career as a surgical technologist!

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