A surgical scrub technician works alongside surgeons, nurses, and other operating room staff to provide assistance with the non-medical aspects of surgical procedures. Responsibilities include preparing the room, sterilizing equipment, and ensuring that all machines are in working order. Technicians may also work directly with patients by bathing or shaving them before surgery, transferring them to and from the operating room, and monitoring vital signs during and after procedures.
Becoming a surgical scrub technician usually requires attending a program through a community college or a vocational-technical school. These courses usually last between nine months to two years, depending on the program. During such programs, students learn about the different types of equipment used in an operating room and how to properly care for that equipment. Students also learn about medical terminology, patient safety, and prevention of disease transmission. To prepare to enroll in this kind of program, individuals should consider taking basic anatomy and biology classes.
After completing the required basic education, a surgical scrub technician may choose to become a Certified Surgical Technologist, especially since most employers require this. In order to become certified, scrub technicians typically complete a certain number of education hours over a four-year period, and then take a certifying exam. In addition to the education requirements, students may need a certain number of years of training on the job in order to take the exam. After becoming certified, technicians should continue attending conferences and classes to keep up on the constantly changing field of surgery. Some surgical scrub technicians choose to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as heart surgery or obstetrics, which may require additional training.
The work environment of a surgical scrub technician is extremely demanding, both physically and mentally. Technicians spend most of their shift on their feet, usually in the cold, dry operating room environment. During the best conditions, technicians need to be able to think and react quickly, and anticipate the needs of surgical staff. When something goes wrong during surgery, they’ll need to be able to think even faster under extreme pressure, often while following directions from several different people at the same time. Attention to detail is a must in this field, as the slightest error can have serious consequences.
Hospitals are the most common places of employment for a surgical scrub technician, although some may work in outpatient clinics or doctor’s offices. Those who go on to receive certification in the field will have a better chance of obtaining jobs in the field than those who do not. Salary can vary significantly depending on a technician's experience and geographical location, but is generally comparable to that of radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, and licensed practical nurses.