Surgical technicians in California
In California as elsewhere, surgical technicians (also known as surgical technologists) work in an operating room under the instruction of the rest of the surgical team, including physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other health care workers (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). They may assist surgeons or nurses before, during and after a surgical procedure. Prior to a surgery, the surgical tech may be asked to sterilize the room, count or stock medical supplies, and prepare the patient by cleaning skin, applying the appropriate pads and monitors, and transporting the patient to to the operating room. During the course of the surgery, the surgical tech may place sterile instruments on tables or pass equipment and supplies to the surgeon. They may also be responsible for the handling of any specimens acquired during the procedure. When the surgery is complete, a surgical tech may attach dressings and transport a patient to the recovery room, assist with cleaning the operating room, and send specimens to appropriate laboratory or storage areas.
Because of the nature of this kind of work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes several qualities that surgical technicians should possess: They should be very detail-oriented, active listeners, and have manual dexterity. A patient's life is often put in the hands of the entire health care team during a surgery, so surgical technicians must also have quick reaction time and the stamina to work in stressful, high-pressure environments -- often standing for extended periods -- such as an operating room while still providing the highest level of care (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Surgical Tech School Programs in California: Know your stuff
Typically, those looking to possibly pursue a career as a surgical technician will need to earn a postsecondary certificate or associate. Additionally, it is helpful while still in high school to take (or have taken) courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and health (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Aspiring surgical techs may find that certification can help them in obtaining a position, especially since a few states and the District of Columbia regulate surgical technologists. Students interested in learning more about certification can consult The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, the National Center for Competency Testing, or the National HealthCareer Association.
The search for surgical technician programs in California may be embarked on at Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). EducationNews.org provides state-specific information on surgical technician schools in California, including a map and listing of locations throughout the state offering accredited surgical tech programs (most appear to be located in the central and southern regions of the state). These programs generally range in length from a few months to two years and usually culminate in a certificate or associate degree upon successful completion (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Students pursuing a surgical technology education should probably expect to take courses in anatomy, biology, medical terminology and to experience a combination of classroom, laboratory and on-site clinical practice. Sterilization techniques and how to prevent and control infections are also taught as part of the overall training in the care and safety of patients.
A surgical tech may be trained to use a variety of tools, machines, software and technology. Surgical stapling devices are one type of tool that may be used by surgical technicians in a variety of surgeries -- including gastrointestinal, gynecologic, and thoracic -- to remove part of an organ, to cut through organs and tissues, and to create connections between structures (FDA.gov/MedicalDevices, 2010). It is essential that the surgical tech have the proper training necessary for handling this critical and complex device. When dealing with tissue, health care professionals must know the appropriate amount of tissue compression to ensure the safety of patients.
Surgical Tech Schools in California: Surgical technician career path
Employment opportunities in the Golden State for surgical technicians appear to be promising -- California lags only behind Texas among U.S. states employing the highest levels of surgical technicians (BLS, 2012). In May 2011, there were 8,900 surgical technicians working in the state, earning an annual mean wage of $51,940, or an hourly mean wage of $24.97. This puts California among the top-five highest paying states for the occupation.
For those ready to begin their job hunt, there are a large number of businesses and health care facilities that employ trained surgical technicians in California. A few of the major companies that may be employing surgical technicians in California include the following:
- Kaiser Permanente
- HealthCare Partners
- University of Southern California
- Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and Orange County
- Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
- Sutter Health
- UCLA Health System
- Onward HealthCare
- Sharp Rees-Stealy
Aspiring surgical technicians in California may also consider looking for employment at smaller businesses and health care facilities such as clinics, specialty hospitals, private physician and dentist offices, and outpatient care centers (BLS, 2012). Surgical technician schools in California may provide the first step in setting you down the path toward a potential career as a surgical technician in a state ripe with opportunity.