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Surgical Technology Career Guide: Who is a Surgical Technologist?

As many of us have heard about surgical technology, but aren’t completely aware of who is a surgical technologist. But not to worry. In this article, I have described each and everything in detail from definition to their salary.

There is a misconception between technologists and technicians. Most of the people say that both are the same but there are some differences. Although both of them may have some common duties or jobs, future opportunities, level of knowledge and education, salary, etc, are not the same. Read this article you will get the differences and understand the technicians and technologists are not the same.

Surgical technologist

It is an allied health professional serving as a part of the unit delivering surgical care. Surgical technologists are members and the right hand of the surgical team. The team members include the surgeon, surgeon’s assistant, circulator nurse, and anesthesia provider (anesthesiologist). Surgical technologists possess skills in sterile and aseptic techniques. 

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Whether the surgical technologist is equipped in an intensive military program or through meticulous study and training in a civilian health facility. This profession is facing a lot of challenges and opportunities. 

Advancement of technology and a need for proficient training happened in the development of new allied health professions and expanded the roles of those now in existence. Surgical technology also followed this trend. 

Evolution of this profession

Surgeons have always needed skilled assistants, including those whose particular role was centered around surgical instrumentation. The demand for assistive personnel in surgery did not arise until world war II. During world war I, Army corpsman worked on the battlefield to offer aid and comfort to the injured or wounded, but they had no role in surgery. Technological advances also created a need for skilled personnel who could assist the surgeon during surgery. World war II changed that with the evolution of penicillin and sulfa war surgeons could operate to save the lives of many patients than previously was possible.

After world war II the Korean war caused a continued shortage of operating room nurses, and there is a need for entirely qualified nurses in the operating room. At this time the operating room supervisors began to recruit former corpsmen to work in civilian surgery.

In 1965 registered nurses continued to fulfill the function of the scrub or instrument nurse at this period hospitals began tutoring civilian ORTs. In 1967 prompted by the need for guidelines and the standards in the training of paramedics surgical personnel, the association of operating room nurses (AORN) published a book.

In 1968 the AORN board of directors made an organization of operating room technicians (AORT). In 1970 the first certifying examination for operating room technicians happened. In 1973, the AORT become independent from AORN and the titled was changed to Association of surgical technologist (AST) 

Today, surgical technologists passing the national certification examination produced by the NBSTSA get the title of “Certified Surgical Technologist”. Certification can be stimulated by contact hours or re-examination. Laws for surgical technologists diverge by state and many states are in various stages of legislation. Some need certification, some need state registration, and some have no laws at all.

Role of the surgical technologist

Today’s approved surgical technologist has a wide scope of practice and many career choices. The demanding role in the job deviates according to the specialization and the type of institution in which the CST works.

As a scrub person

The term scrub has been used to describe this role for many years and predates the current profession of surgical technologist as it practices now. Perform a role as a part of the sterile team, the technologist is a scrubbed, gowned, and gloves participant in surgery. A technologist provides technical support to those who perform surgery. In this condition the technologist is often referred to as surgery. He passes instruments, medical supplies, medications, and needed equipment during the surgery. The surgical technologist in the scrubbed role may also be known as STSR. The surgical procedure requires a variety of instrument supplies and equipment that range from a small number to a very large number of instruments called sets.

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Some instruments can be used right at the moment when surgery is performed but some instruments are placed back on the sterile field and may be used when there is a need for those instruments.

The scrub person also protects the sterile field from contamination and communication. A surgical technologist should know about the instruments and when to pass the instruments or which instrument he has to pass as per surgeon preference. Errors consume valuable moments and cause a disturbance that is diverting the surgeon and is not conducive to safe surgery. He has to maintain the instruments on the table in a neat and orderly way. The scrubbed person can communicate with the circulator for receiving the item from outside the room that is needed during surgical procedures.

As a circulator

The circulator is a nonsterile team member of the surgery. The scrub person remains at the sterile field throughout the surgery. The circulator role is quite different from the scrub role. The circulator does not contact directly to the surgeon, technologist, OR table, mayo stand, instruments. He opens the sterile instruments and sutures or supplies by following the technique that can not cause contamination.

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The circulator verifies that the patient chart, including reports, per, its, preoperative is complete before the surgery. Circulators may also perform duties like foleys and skin preparations. 

As a second assistant

Some procedures require one or more assistants to the surgeon. When two assistants are needed another surgical technologist or technician called the second assistant. The role of the second assistant is different from the first assistant. The second assistant maintains the retraction of tissues, assists with hemostasis, correct use of surgical sponges, attached the suction at the end of the surgery, apply the dressing at the closing of surgery on the wound. 

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Job description of surgical technologist

There are many job opportunities available for surgical technologists. Let’s look what surgical technologist need to do in a particular job:

Preoperative duties of surgical technologist

Preoperative duties of a surgical technologist are as follows:

  • Doing OR preparations 
  • Doing personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Gathers, checks, and opens supplies and equipment required for the surgical procedure. 
  • Performs the scrub, wearing a gown and gloves.
  • Assists the team members when they are performing gowning and gloving. 
  • Sets the back table 
  • Sets Mayo stand with sterile instruments
  • Performs primary instrument, sharps, and sponge counts with the circulator.
  • Assists the team members when they are performing gowning and gloving. 
  • Assists with draping the patient and maintaining the sterile field.
  • Secures tubing, cords, and other sterile accessories.

Intraoperative Duties

Intraoperative duties of a surgical technologist are as follows: 

  • Prepares additional instrumentation, equipment, and supplies for usage during the procedure. 
  • Predicts the needs of the surgeon by passing instruments and supplies to the surgeon during the procedure. 
  • Holds retractors or instruments.
  • Sponges or suctions the operative site.
  • Pass the measurable medications, hemostatic agents, and irrigation solutions utilized during the surgical procedure.
  • Applies electrocautery to clamps or forceps on bleeders. 
  • Maintains the sterile technique during the procedure. 
  • Performs additional counts as necessary.
  • Cuts suture. 
  • Coordinates the camera during endoscopic surgery.
  • Prepares sterile dressings and/or immobilization devices. 
  • Prepares and passes off the specimen as appropriate. 
  • Assists in prepping the OR for the next patient.
  • Participates in debriefing and quality improvement practices to ensure quality patient care.

Surgical technologist’s salary

Here is the description of surgical technologist’s salary:

Annual salary of surgical technologist 

Surgical Assistants have the highest average salary in the following states:

  • Maryland;     $48,820
  • Nevada;        $48,440
  • Minnesota;   $47,590
  • Columbia;     $47,390
  • California;     $46,600
  • Washington; $45,910
  • Connecticut; $45,910

As of Apr 24, 2020, the average yearly pay for a Surgeon Assistant in the United States is $141,950 a year.

While ZipRecruiter is observing yearly salaries as high as $399,000 and as low as $19,500.

Hourly salary of surgical technologist

Hourly surgical technologist’s salary is:

  • Reported salaries are highest at HCA, Inc. wherever the average pay is $29.68. 
  • Florida Hospital, Orlando Florida pays the lowest at nearby $16.00. 
  • Oral Surgery Group, Inc and Baptist Health also give salaries about $17.68 and $25.27. 
  • Other companies that offer high salaries for this job include Mayo Clinic and Laredo Medical Center, earning around $28.91 and $25.67, respectively. 

Surgical technologist’s salary in Pakistan

Surgical technologist’s salary in Pakistan is described below:

  • A certified surgical technologist (1-3 years of experience) earns an average salary of Rs 706,990 annually. 
  • A senior-level certified surgical technologist (8+ years of experience) earns an average salary of Rs 1,163,081 annually.

The average certified surgical technologist’s salary in Pakistan is Rs 940,579 In addition, they get an average reward of Rs 13,262.

Earn a bachelor’s degree in surgical technology

Getting a bachelor’s degree enhances your possibilities in building a good career.

Steps towards good opportunities:

  • First, you have to do your intermediate
  • Search medical colleges who are giving this BS degree in surgical technology
  • See eligibility criteria
  • Send an application form to the respective college
  • They will conduct your exam 
  • They will take you if you are completely eligible with all the requirements and test score

What subjects do I have to study in a BS degree?

You have to study some following essential subjects throughout 4 years:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Surgical pharmacology
  • Research 
  • Wound management
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Patient care
  • Sterilization and disinfection techniques
  • OT management

What skill will I get after completing my degree?

A good surgical technologist will be skilled in:

  • Vitals signs  
  • Instruments name and their functions
  • Instruments handling
  • Sutures
  • Draping 
  • OT management
  • Wound management 
  • Assist the surgeon
  • Sterilization and disinfection
  • Circulator 
  • Usage of PPE (personal protective equipment) 
  • How to get scrubbed
  • Procedures

A good surgical technologist should have:

  • Calm nature
  • Ability to work in groups
  • Excellent communication skills  
  • Expect the unexpected 
  • Willing to learn
  • Be dedicated and honest
  • Not squeamish
  • Exceptional dexterity

Difference between surgical technologist and technician

Surgical technician: diploma holder or completed diploma after higher secondary.

Salary: surgical technician have $40,996 annually in the US

Future opportunities: surgical technicians have low future opportunities as compared to technologists because he has a diploma certificate but technologists have a BS degree so opportunities are higher for technologists.

Grade: surgical technician grade is 9th or 10th in Pakistan

Surgical technologist: having a degree of BS in medical technology

Salary: surgical technologist have $48,820 in the US

Future opportunities: after completing their BS degree, a surgical technologist continues their master’s in various fields. There are many opportunities as a technologist.

Grade: surgical technologist grade is 17th in Pakistan

Colleges for surgical technology in Pakistan

  • Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto medical University, pims
  • DOW University of health and sciences 
  • University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir
  • University of Sargodha
  • Rehman college of modern sciences
  • Shifa tameer e millat University

Colleges for surgical technology in the USA

  • Saint mary’s University of Minnesota
  • Siena heights University
  • University of Pittsburgh Johnstown
  • University of saint Francis-fort Wayne
  • University of Montana
  • University of Akron main campus

In which field and university can surgical technologists do masters?

They can earn their masters degree in:

  • MSc in medicine and health at the University of Edinburgh
  • MSc in surgical science at Oxford University
  • MSc in surgical innovation at Imperial College London
  • MSc by research in surgical sciences at Oxford university
  • MSc at surgical and interventional sciences at University College London
  • MSc in maxillofacial and craniofacial technology at King’s College London
  • MSc in burns, plastic and reconstructive surgery at University College London
  • MSc in orthopedic trauma sciences at Queen Mary University of London
  • MSc in advance clinical practice of pediatrics at University of Manchester
  • MSc in business management and many more

Technicians holding diploma certificate can’t do MSc in the above-mentioned fields.

How to become a certified surgical technologist?

Achieving certification is a great idea to recognize that you have the practical skills and knowledge that are essential to perform entry-level job duties. Earning a surgical technologist certification is a 2-step rule:

  • First, you have to successfully complete the surgical technologist BS degree.
  • Then, pass the Certified Surgical Technologist exam.

What exactly the CST (Certified Surgical Technologist) is?

The exam consists of 175-questions, out of which 150 you have to score. You need to gain a score of approximately 70% in order to pass as Offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA),

Once you hold your certification, it’s essential to renew it each several years. As of 2019, the revision period for CSTs is every 4 years, with candidates moving needed to achieve 60 hours of proceeding education (CE) credits within every period. But, working in January of 2020, the renewal time will reduce to 2 years and the CE demands will be cut to 30 credits per cycle.

If you don’t finish the mandatory CEs, you can additionally opt to renew your certification by retaking the initial CST exam.

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