Surgical tech is a known profession, but what most people undermine is the amount of work, effort, and emotions that went into this job. Are you someone planning to enter the healthcare industry as a surgical tech and wondering how long it takes to be a surgical tech? Keep on reading to know more.
What is Surgical tech?
A surgical tech or an OR technician is a medical healthcare professional responsible for facilitating the work in operating rooms. These professionals work alongside surgeons, nurses, and anaesthesiologists to prepare the OR for surgeries and handling advanced medical equipment. For the most part, they are also responsible for maintaining a clean, seamless, and sterile environment in the operating room.
What Does a Surgical Tech Do?
Surgical techs are required to perform the following duties in the practical field.
- Managing the sterilization of tools in the operating room.
- Preparing the operating room for surgery.
- Handling surgical equipment and technology during the surgery.
- Assisting surgeons in monitoring the equipment during surgeries.
- Holding medical tools and using them to monitor internal organs during the surgeries.
- Ensuring the surgical items are placed back after surgery.
- Minimizing the infection risk by maintaining the cleanliness of the operating rooms.
- Applying dressings to promote patients’ healing process.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Surgical Tech?
On average, it takes anywhere between two to four years to become a surgical tech in the USA. That said, it depends largely on what career path you are going to take, whether it is an associate degree or a diploma course. For instance, a diploma course in surgical tech can be completed in as few as nine months.
Become a Surgical Tech: Complete Step-by-Step Guide
Becoming a surgical tech is not as challenging as it seems. You need to go through an educational degree and a license exam. If you are planning to become a surgical tech in the future, here is a step-by-step guide for you to follow.
Complete High School
The first step to becoming a surgical tech in the USA is completing your high school certificate. During this stage, if you are clear about the career path, it is better that you opt for special courses like biology, physiology, anatomy, or other hard sciences. It will help you skip the introductory courses in college.
- Pro Tip: Though it can be a little challenging, doing an internship or two in a local healthcare system during your high school certification.
Apply for a Surgical Tech Diploma Certificate or Degree
The next step is to apply for an accredited surgical tech program. The program must be verified by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education System. Now, when it comes to a degree, you have two options: either getting an associate degree or completing a diploma course.
Certificate Diploma Programs
Diploma certificates usually last between nine and twelve months. These programs help you get the essential coursework knowledge and practical training to become a certified surgical tech.
Associate Degree Programs
An associate degree program usually takes two years to complete. This formal education offers you a deeper insight into the coursework and practical skills required to learn how to deal with technology.
What Do You Study as a Surgical Tech?
Although most of us have a surface-level understanding of who is a surgical tech, there is no deeper insight into the skill set and knowledge they have. Well, for the most part, they learn how to assist surgeons in handling medical equipment and preparing the operating room. For this, the following are the courses you must take in an accredited degree program as a surgical tech.
- Operating Room Sterilization Techniques
- Handling Medical Equipment
- Pharmacology for Surgical Tech
- Core Concepts of Patient Care
- Understanding Surgical Procedures
Get Some Experience
Though it is not a prerequisite, most students at this point go for internships and work experience in local community centers. It helps them refine their skills and understand how to perform day-to-day technological tasks in collaboration with surgeons and other medical practitioners. Typically, it can take you anywhere between six and twelve months.
Pass the License Exam
The next stage of becoming a surgical tech is taking the license exam. This exam is monitored by the NBSTSA National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. You have two exam options to opt for state or national.
That said, do consider that it is not a compulsory step to pass the state licensing exam. But it is a better option for anyone who is dedicated to working in the field and wants their resume to stand out. This is because the NBSTSA and NCCT National Center approve these certifications for Competency Testing.
Apply for Jobs
Finally, it is time to advance in your career and fish for job opportunities. At this point, you can specialize in the field by choosing surgical technologies like open heart, neuro, vascular, and more. The two most popular chosen jobs as surgical techs are the central supply supervisor and first assistant.
Central Supply Supervisor
Central supply supervisors are required to manage the sterilization of the tools in the operating room.
The first assistants are the primary surgical techs that assist the surgeons in the operating room. They are responsible for advanced jobs like handling sophisticated technologies.
Things You Learn as a Surgical Tech in the Field
Now, the question is, what to expect when you enter the practical field as a surgical tech? Well, the first step is learning skills that will help you in carrying out routine tasks aside from surgeons in clinical settings. Following are some expertise you learn as an entry-level surgical tech in America.
Attention to detail is by far the most important skill for a surgical tech. It helps them prevent errors during high-risk surgeries and improve the workflow during stretched hours in the operating room.
Surgical tech professionals are responsible for doing a lot of work, from handling equipment to assisting surgeons and taking care of patients. Hence, it is better that they understand the art of multitasking from the very start.
If we look at the job of a surgical tech, it is all about collaborating with other medical practitioners like surgeons and anaesthesiologists in the field. Therefore, it becomes inevitable for tech to learn how to handle situations in teams. You get probation job procurements that help you understand this, so you are better apt to address situations.
Apart from communicating with teamwork, it is equally significant to have networking skills, considering that you meet endless people in a day, from patients to doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals. You shouldn’t only be efficient in oral communication but also have writing skills to update patient records in the inventory.
Building Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a big part of working in the medical field, given that you are always interacting with patients. Hence, building empathy and tolerance and maintaining composure in emergency and high-risk situations is important.
Lastly, surgical tech also learns how to navigate between long-hour shifts and build physical stamina for this.
Are there any cons of being a surgical tech?
Well, it all depends on what you consider cons. For the most part, surgical tech is a high-stakes profession that requires you to put in a lot of emotion, patience, time, effort, and skills in the work. You will need to perform in high-risk situations and mostly won’t have room to make mistakes, especially when you are working as a first assistant alongside surgeons.
Does becoming a surgical tech in the USA take a long time?
No, quite the opposite of that. It does not take you more than four years to become a surgical tech in the USA. That said, it requires a lot of education, knowledge, expertise, and patience to excel in the field.
How much does surgical tech make in America?
On average, a surgical tech makes anywhere between $39,000 and $79,000 on a yearly basis.
I hope this guide has helped you in deciding whether to enter the medical field as a surgical tech. Finally, I wholeheartedly thank Jason Stark for giving me his deeper insights into what goes into the profession. He recently started working as a central supervisor in a public sector clinical setup.