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How to Become a Surgical Tech

Surgical technicians, also called surgical techs, surgical technologists or scrubs, are one of the most in-demand professionals in the healthcare industry. The basic job duties of a surgical tech include preparing patients for surgery and assisting the surgeon in the operating room. For every surgeon there are at least five surgical techs behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly.

Unlike many other positions in the medical field, you can become a surgical tech with a relatively small amount of training. After less than two years at an accredited surgical tech school, you will be eligible to sit for a national certification exam or work in any state.

Follow the steps below to outline your path to becoming a surgical tech.

1. Know What to Expect

It’s crucial that candidates for surgical tech training programs have both cool heads and sturdy stomachs. A surgical tech will be expected to learn anatomy and physiology, perform efficiently under pressure, and be able to watch or make an incision without shuddering. Though many of the routine duties of a surgical tech include mild tasks such as sterilizing instruments and preparing patients for surgery, a surgical tech may be asked to stitch up a wound or handle tissue.

2. Enroll in a Surgical Tech Training Program

The best route to a successful surgical tech career is through a formal training program. Earning a surgical tech degree takes around 2 years and includes classes in medical subjects, surgical tech job skills, and related subjects such as math and science.

Surgical tech certificate programs are shorter, taking around nine to 12 months. These programs cover a more career-focused curriculum, and are mostly intended for degree-holding professionals who are changing career paths.

Many surgical tech schools are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If you plan to become certified after graduation, this is preferable, as graduating from an accredited school is required for some certifications.

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3. Master the Curriculum

Once you’ve enrolled in a surgical tech program, you’ll be responsible for attending classes that will prepare you for your new career. Whether or not you have a background in medicine, it’s important that surgical tech students be versed in basic math and science. Attend a few college classes before enrolling if you feel your skills are rusty.

All surgical tech schools offer classes in physiology and anatomy, as well as microbiology, pharmacology, aseptic techniques, surgical procedures, patience care, medical ethics and medical terminology. Some programs may include general career courses covering administration and management. The best training will prepare you to think critically and stay calm under pressure.

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4. Complete an Externship

Many reputable schools offer students the opportunity to participate in externships – supervised experience working as a surgical tech in a local hospital. Participation in such a program is a great way to hone the skills you’ve learned through in-class instruction and prepare yourself for working professionally as a surgical tech. An externship will give you crucial hands-on knowledge and will look good on your resume. It may even provide you with a letter of recommendation that will help you as you begin your new career.

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5. Become Certified

If desired, you have the option of pursuing surgical tech certification from one of the certifying organizations. This involves having a certain amount of experience or training from an accredited school, depending on the certification. The American College of Surgeons strongly recommends that surgical techs be certified, and many surgeons prefer to work with certified techs. Certified surgical techs are also more competitive in the job market.

It is possible to become certified during the last month of school or within a year of graduation. Many surgical techs choose to work for a year and then become certified. Either way, certification must be renewed, which requires continuing education.

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6. Begin Work as a Surgical Technician

If the program you attended included an externship, you have a head start on finding a job. Many hospitals ask externs to stay on to transition into full-time employees. Your school may also have a career center that can assist you in finding a position as a surgical technician. Otherwise, check online job listing for other leads.

The popularity and growth of the surgical tech field means strong opportunity for a well-trained, smart and certified surgical technician. Good luck on your chosen career path.

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