5 Job Duties of a Surgical Technologist

High school graduates seeking a hot healthcare career that doesn’t involve a long stint in college should consider becoming a surgical technologist. The United States employs 99,800 surgical technologists primarily in hospitals and outpatient centers to support surgeons with invasive medical procedures. Surgical technologists, also called scrub techs, are projected to experience faster-than-average job growth at 15 percent according to the BLS. Around 14,700 new positions will be created through 2024 because of the increased scheduling of operations for elderly Americans and the ACA insured. Before you decide to scrub in, review the top five job duties expected of surgical technologists.

1. Sterilizing Surgical Spaces

The NIH reported that 157,500 patients contracted infections at U.S. acute care hospitals from inpatient surgery in 2011 alone. Surgical technologists strive to reduce this by sterilizing every instrument with multi-enzyme detergents that remove contaminants. Techs will use the surgeon-provided list of supplies to thoroughly clean and organize them. They’ll assist surgeons and nurses in donning sterile gowns, gloves, and personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s also important for surgical technologists to wash the patient’s surgical site, shave any body hair, and apply sterile draping.

2. Preparing Patients for Operations

Once the scalpels have been readied and tubing secured, surgical technologists will receive the patient from preoperative nurses. Techs will review the patient’s chart and verify the consent forms while answering any of their frightened questions. Some will assist the anesthetist or certified nurse anesthetist with placing patients under sedation. Surgical technologists then transfer the patient to the operating room table for an optimal positioning. Attaching electrosurgical grounding pads, heart monitors, catheters, and tourniquets properly is vital before the first incision.

3. Offering Intraoperative Assistance

Whether it’s a routine tonsillectomy or complex coronary artery bypass, surgeons count on operating rooms techs to add two more hands. Surgical technologists follow the surgeon’s directions to pass instruments throughout. Retracting the incision site open properly will help the surgeon visualize their movements. They might be asked to suction incision sites, attach clamps to bleeders, catch lab specimens, and apply haemostatic agents. Being a surgical technologist means being hyper-vigilant, but emergencies can still occur. Techs calmly and urgently help surgeons retrieve crash cart supplies to stabilize patients.

4. Keeping Track of Surgical Instruments

Passing sponges and coordinating robotic cameras isn’t the only part of surgical assistance. Another of the biggest job duties for surgical technologists is continually counting operative supplies and perhaps 100+ instruments. As the surgeon closes the wound, they’ll count materials after each layer to guarantee nothing remains inside the patient. Though rare, one CBS report found nearly 800 surgical tools, including needles and retractors, have been forgotten in patients’ bodies since 2005. Techs protect patients from further harm by obsessively checking their work.

5. Moving Patients to Post-Op Recovery

Surgical technologists will wrap up the surgery by preparing the sterile wound dressings over sutures and attaching immobilization devices. After cleaning themselves up, techs will transport patients to post-anesthesia care units where their recovery begins. Duties haven’t finished for scrub techs though because they’ll return to sterilize the OR with custodial staff. Taking bloodied instruments to the facility’s sterile processing department (SPD) will prevent infection spread. A break might follow, but surgical technologists often must attend an operative debriefing before readying the next patient.

Individuals with a strong stomach, physical strength, and good teamwork skills could enter the OR without having to attend medical school. Surgical techs typically have an associate degree from two-year community colleges accredited by the CAAHEP. Most will also pursue the voluntary certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting to display competency. Now that you’re aware of the intense job responsibilities, you can determine if working as a surgical technologist is your calling.