A surgical technician must understand the theory of sterile technique as well as anatomy, surgical procedures, and utilization of tools and technologies. The majority of surgical technicians (60%) work in hospitals, while the rest tend to obtain employment in physician and outpatient care centers and ambulatory surgical centers. The field is currently experiencing above-average employment growth, with a projected 15% increase in jobs between 2014-2024. This number is expected to be even higher for employment outside of hospitals. As a surgical technician, an individual can expect to provide assistance to doctors, nurses, and patients. Job duties will include sterilizing instruments, ensuring that doctors are properly equipped for each procedure, preparing the operating room and patients for surgery, and acting as a member of the operating room team. Surgical technicians may also be required to assist in cleaning the operating room following procedures. Throughout employment, they will work under the guidance and supervision of a surgeon. The median salary in this field is $45,160.
An associate program is a two-year program that is often considered to be equivalent in scope to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program. Students of associate degree programs in surgical technology can can expect to take classes in microbiology, clinical assisting, basic surgical concepts, clinical practice, anatomy, and physiology. Most associate degree programs will require students to maintain a GPA of at least 2.0, receive no less than a C, and pass a final, comprehensive examination in order to graduate. The annual tuition for an associate degree can range between $3,500 and $35,000.
A bachelor’s degree is recommended to anyone interested in becoming a supervisor or program director in this field. To enter a bachelor’s program in surgical technology, students must have a high school diploma, documentation of immunization, and CPR certification in addition to completing an essay, interview, and surgical observation. Students may also be required to provide references and complete prerequisite courses. Program curriculum will likely include classes such as microbiology, surgical pharmacology, medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, and asepsis. Other possible topics include aseptic technique and pathophysiology. Credit will be obtained in the classroom, lab, and through a clinical rotation at hospitals and surgical centers. Upon completion of a bachelor's degree program, graduates should have knowledge of cognitive, psychomotor, and affective areas as well as general and specialty surgical procedures, making many of them qualified for entry-level positions in the field. Other areas of expertise might include anesthesia, anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and surgical technology techniques. Graduates of a surgical technology bachelor's programs should also be able to sterilize, disinfect, and appropriately hand over surgical instruments as well as prepare for operations with use of equipment set-up, gowns, patient care, and sterile dressings. The yearly cost of a bachelor’s degree in this field generally falls between $13,500 and $24,000.
Interested students must have a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, exercise science, nursing, pre-health, business, or another health-related area in order to enter a master’s program in the field of surgical technology. They must also be able to show an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and have completed prerequisite courses such as anatomy, physiology, general biology, general chemistry, and microbiology, with no less than a B- for each course. In most cases, a student may apply for a master's program while still pursuing his or her bachelor's degree. Once admitted, master's program students can expect to take courses in a classroom setting and simulation skill center as well as partaking in a clinical study. Classes in medical terminology, surgical assisting, surgical microbiology, clinical anatomy, surgical physiology, pharmacology, and medical ethics may also be offered. In order to graduate, a student must prove that he or she possesses the necessary observation, communication, critical reasoning, motor and sensory, and behavioral skills to be a successful surgical technician. These skills indicate that one has the emotional health, maturity, and understanding of cultures, ethnicities, and personalities to perform the work necessary for a role in this field. The typical cost of a master’s program in surgical technology ranges from $20,000 to $25,000 per year.
When considering a degree program in this field, prospective students should reference the Accreditation Review Committee for Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or ARC/STSA. Certification by this accreditation organization indicates that a program complies with industry-recognized standards by providing an excellent education and advancing the profession in a positive manner. The Committee works in partnership with a number of accredited organizations and boards, including the Association of Surgical Technologies, The National Board of Surgical Technology, and the Association of Surgical Assistants.
A prospective student interested in becoming a surgical technician might consider a range of specializations including orthopedics, general surgery, gynecology, urology, ENT, daVinci Robot surgery, neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery, endovascular, ophthalmic, podiatric, and more. Not all colleges and universities provide specializations or this extensive of a list of specializations, so check that the school in question possesses your desired specialization before committing to a program.
In order to practice as a surgical technician, graduates of degree programs must receive a license and become a certified surgical technologist (CST). This exam for this certification is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
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