How do I Become a Surgical Technologist?

Dee S.

The decision to become a surgical technologist, also known as an operating room technologist or a scrub, can be an exciting and rewarding one. A surgical technologist is part of a team that works primarily in an operating room, performing surgeries. The main responsibility of someone who decides to become a surgical technologist is to provide the patient and medical staff a clean, safe operating environment. She can accomplish this goal by supporting the surgical team during any stage of a medical procedure – from pre-operative maintenance and upkeep of supplies to monitoring the surgical electronic equipment to post-operative clean up and reports.

Depending on the type of school, programs for surgical technologists can take one or two years to complete.
Depending on the type of school, programs for surgical technologists can take one or two years to complete.

There are several paths that someone may take to become a surgical technologist. Many people choose to receive their education from a technical or vocational school or college. In general, the programs that are offered to a person wanting to become a surgical technologist are only about a year long. There are some community colleges that also offer associate’s degree programs in surgical technology. Programs through a community college typically take about two years to complete.

Surgical technologists perform some support responsibilities before surgery takes place.
Surgical technologists perform some support responsibilities before surgery takes place.

No matter which educational route that someone decides to follow to become a surgical technologist, all programs have two segments: instruction inside a classroom and supervised experience in a clinical setting. Inside the classroom, there are a wide range of classes that students can study – anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical terminology, environmental hazards, microbiology, surgical complications, and operating room procedure – to name just a few. Once a student enters the clinical phase of their education, she will learn details about the surgical procedures that are often seen in both general surgery and specialized fields of surgery, such as neurosurgery, obstetrics, gynecology, and urology.

A surgical tech manages equipment during surgical procedures.
A surgical tech manages equipment during surgical procedures.

In some cases, a person wanting to become a surgical technologist will receive supervised training while on the job. The immersion training programs can last anywhere from six to eight weeks to a full year in duration. Often those students who receive an immersion training have had previous experience, such as a nurse’s aide who has decided to become a surgical technologist. The main difference is that if the student only receives on the job training, she will not be eligible for certification – and some employers prefer certified students.

In addition to quality education and training, it is also important that a person who wants to become a surgical technologist possess several key personality traits and skills. For example, she should be honest, have great manual dexterity, and have the ability to withstand long hours in an operating room. She should also be able to work well with others and pay close attention to the most minute details. The ability to respect the privacy of a patient and remain calm during stressful situations are also valuable qualities for those in the profession.

A surgical technologist will do whatever is necessary to support the surgical team during an operation.
A surgical technologist will do whatever is necessary to support the surgical team during an operation.

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