Surgical technologists, also called surgical techs or scrubs, assist surgeons in all aspects of the operating room. For every one surgeon, there are usually around 5 surgical techs who work to keep the operating room running smoothly. The surgical tech job description reflects this with many detail-oriented yet highly important clinical tasks.
Surgical techs are part of an operating room team that also includes surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists. The day-to-day job description of a surgical tech includes duties such as:
Before a surgery, the surgical technologist is responsible for preparing both the operating room and the patient.
The surgical tech first sets up the operating room by sterilizing and laying out the necessary surgical instruments, hanging clean curtains and sheets, and prepping solutions for the surgeon. They also assemble any of the equipment that will be used during surgery, check for any malfunctions, and make any needed adjustments.
The surgical tech will similarly prepare the patient by washing, shaving, and sterilizing the site of the surgery. They will move the patient to the operating room and position them on the operating table.
During surgery, the duties of a surgical tech become more focused on the operation. Surgical technologists hand instruments and other supplies to the surgeon, as well as help the surgeon into fresh gowns and gloves. They may be asked to assist the surgeon in suturing wounds, applying dressing, handling tissue, or cutting stitches. Any specimens taken from the patient for later study will also be cared for by the surgical technologist. While the surgeon is preoccupied, the surgical technologist is responsible for keeping an eye on the patients’ vital signs and other charts.
After the operation is complete, the surgical technologist transports the patient to recovery and cleans the operating room.
Depending upon the type of training and specialization of the surgical technologist, they may also fill the job description of a surgical first assistant or circulator. As a first assistant, the surgical tech will aid the surgeon in controlling blood flow and protecting the patient from exposure. A circulating surgical tech is responsible for interviewing the patient before the operation, answering the surgeon’s questions about the patient during surgery, assisting the anesthesiologist and creating a written account of the procedure. These roles are slightly more demanding and thus usually earn a higher surgical tech salary.
Formal training – Most surgical technologists have graduated from a formal surgical tech training program, including an externship.
Certification – This is not technically a job requirement, but in this highly competitive field, many surgical techs are certified by one or more organizations offering surgical tech certification.
Strong character – Successful surgical techs possess both an iron stomach and a cool head. The surgical tech job description will expose you to some unpleasant situations, and surgical technologists cannot be squeamish or distracted. Any lapse in duties may be harmful to the patient or the surgical team.
The surgical tech job description is usually focused on hospitals, though it is possible to work in a private office as well. Surgical technologists tend to work in operating rooms, which are kept clean and chilly at all times. Though the environment may be clean, surgery is often unpleasant and surgical techs run the risk of being exposed to communicable diseases.
As with all surgery-related jobs, surgical technologists should expect to be on-call on nights, weekends, and holidays in addition to a regular 40-hour work week.