dcsimg

Surgical Tech Schools & Technical Aspects

What to expect from a surgical tech school

Surgical technicians work alongside surgeons and surgical assistants (sometimes called first assistants) in an operating room during a surgical procedure. Generally, their responsibilities include getting the operating room ready (which includes stocking and sterilizing instruments), preparing surgeons for the operation and providing surgeons with tools during the operation. They can also be responsible for disposing of medical samples taken during the surgery or caring for the patient before and after the operation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgical technologists, also known as operating room technicians, typically need a professional certificate or a postsecondary credential such as an associate degree (BLS.gov, 2012). The curriculum at surgical tech schools can include anatomy, medical terminology, biology and a clinical work-experience program. In addition, surgical technicians receive training on the proper way to sterilize patients and instruments, how to care for patients before and after surgery, and how to prevent or control infections.

What it takes to be a surgical tech

Surgical technicians function as part of the health care team, which includes registered nurses, radiographers and other health care workers such as surgeons and physicians. Techs may be required to stand for long periods of time or work with the terminally ill. Aspiring surgical technicians may find it helpful to possess the following qualities, as listed by the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012):

  • Attention to detail
  • Dexterity
  • Stamina

Additionally, as the environment can be stressful and psychologically challenging, emotionally stable individuals who work well under pressure may be better positioned for success during surgical tech training than others.

Some states require surgical technologists to graduate from an accredited program and receive certification (BLS.gov, 2012). The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) offers a searchable list of accredited programs for surgical technology. The BLS reports that surgical technologists who gain experience and the required additional education may have opportunities to advance to positions as surgical assistants, registered nurses or physician assistants (BLS.gov, 2012). CAAHEP has more information on the role of surgical assistants.

Tools of the trade for surgical techs

After preparing the patient for surgery, which includes moving the patient into the operating room and sterilizing the surgical area, the surgical technician is responsible for arranging and preparing the surgeon's tools. Traditional tools can include the following:

  • Surgical lighting fixtures: Correct lighting is important in surgeries, and surgical technicians may be responsible for positioning the light before and during surgery
  • Betadine or similar products: Betadine, the ubiquitous yellow-brown solution used to sterilize the area on a patient's body where surgery is planned, is a brand of povidone-iodine antiseptic
  • Hemostats: The surgeon's clamps used to cut off blood flow to veins and arteries prior to a tie off, different from bulldog clamps in that they are either completely restricting the flow of blood or not at all
  • Scalpels: The traditional tool used by surgeons to make incisions
  • Forceps: Similar to tweezers or other devices used to grasp and hold objects smaller than fingers would allow

However, the modern surgical room is changing, as shown in research from schools such as the University of Washington and the University of North Dakota. Robotics and sonography are being used in the operating room to facilitate accurate and quick removal of cancers, growths or other tissues as well as to make precise incisions on patients. Surgical technicians can expect to work with some or all of the following modern surgical tools:

  • Surgical lasers: Used instead of scalpels, these lasers cut through soft tissue while immediately cauterizing the blood vessels, preventing the need for suction devices or sponges.
  • Wound clips: Used instead of stitches for some procedures, these clips are designed to be easy to apply and easy to remove.
  • Cautery systems: Some cautery systems are as sophisticated as lasers while others can more closely resemble soldering irons. These tools are used in conjunction with scalpels to cauterize the blood vessels and prevent bleeding.
  • Endoscopes: An endoscope is a long and flexible tube with a camera and light on the end. This tool is used to see inside of bodily organs or to provide close inspection of an operation that normally would not be visible.

Surgical technicians may also be responsible for using sterilizing systems such as autoclaves, which use pressurized steam to sanitize instruments and samples, as well as smaller sterilizing systems used exclusively for instruments. Instead of incinerating surgical samples and waste, some hospitals are turning to autoclaves to sterilize liquid and solid waste before disposal.

Potential employment opportunities for surgical technicians

As of May 2011, the BLS reports that the national annual median wage for surgical technicians was $40,950. Nationally, the highest and lowest 10 percent made an annual wage of $59,150 and $28,860, respectively, during the same time period (BLS.gov, 2012). Additionally, as a result of an aging baby boom generation -- which could increase the number of surgeries -- surgical technicians may experience employment opportunity growth of up to 19 percent, nationally, from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Sources and further reading:
Consolidated Sterilizer Systems
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
University of North Dakota: Tiny Bubbles - Exploring Revolutionary non-invasive surgery methods
University of Washington: Robotics

Search for Campus and Online Surgical Technician Schools Below

Click on a school to request more information.

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
Matching School Ads
1 Program(s) Found
  • Named a Best for Vets school by the Military Times in 2014.
  • Has specialized in student-centered technology, business, criminal justice, health science, and culinary education for over 45 years.
  • Makes it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years or an associate’s in 1.5 years by providing a year-round schedule.
  • Offers externships and clinical experience that help students prepare for life after they graduate.
  • Has 10 campuses across the mid-Atlantic, plus online degree programs.
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found

Southern Technical College provides education and training in a variety of medical and technical areas that enable graduates to obtain entry-level employment. As a student at Southern Technical College, you will have the opportunity learn in several different ways.

Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found

Since 1977, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience. 

1 Program(s) Found
Southeastern College , West Palm Beach
  • Owns a public spa where students can get real-world experience.
  • Provides scholarship opportunities and financial aid to students who qualify.
  • Offers many start dates throughout the year, with part-time and full-time attendance options.
  • Has 3 main campuses in Greenacres and Jacksonville, Florida, with 4 branch campuses in Miami Lakes, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Committed to excellence in education since 1916 with a rich history of helping students find successful careers.
  • Offers more than 50 programs including criminal justice, technology, business, and more.
  • Its fully-accredited campuses offer day, evening, and online classes.
  • Provides tutoring at no additional charge to assist during stressful times.
  • Revises curriculum continually to keep pace with improvements in technology and the increasing needs of business and industry.
Show more [+]
2 Program(s) Found
City College , Fort Lauderdale
  • Features a community service program for students, called the Ambassador Program.
  • Offers several programs in healthcare, criminal justice, broadcasting, business administration and more.
  • Features an online system called MyPortal that allows students to check their schedule, grades, calculate their GPA, and more.
  • Has 5 Florida campuses located in Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Miami, Hollywood, and Altamonte Springs, with online options.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found

New England Institute of Technology is a private, non-profit, co-educational technical university offering over 50 Associate in Science, Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree programs. As a leader in technical career education in southern New England, New England Institute of Technology (also known as New England Tech or NEIT) is committed to providing hands-on technological programs that prepare graduates for positions of leadership in the technical, industrial, business, and allied health communities. Most of our associate degree programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, and bachelor’s degree programs in as little as three years. Last year, over 3,000 students chose New England Tech for the hands-on laboratory and classroom training that provides the necessary skills to begin their technical careers.

Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
South College , Asheville

At South College we welcome students from all different stages of life and career.  Whether you are pursing a degree for the first time, going back to school as an adult learner, or furthering your career with an advanced degree, our faculty and staff will partner with you to give your dreams direction.

Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Committed to excellence in education since 1897 with a rich history of helping students find successful careers.
  • Offers a wide array of over 35 degree programs including business, medical, technology, and more.
  • Developed a Graduate Placement Strategy (GPS) that helps students prepare for careers with externships, help building a career portfolio, resume writing, and more.
  • Its fully-accredited campuses offer day, evening, and online classes.
  • Gives graduates access to career tools and networking resources for life.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found

• Originally founded in 1916 as the Swedish Institute of Physiotherapy, it is one of the oldest continuously operating massage therapy institutions in the country.
• Features a public massage clinic where students can get real-world experience.
• Nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
• Programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits