Surgical Technologist Job Description

Surgical technologists, also known as surgical technicians and surgical techs, assist surgeons, nurses, and other medical staff with operations. Surgical technologists work all shifts, including nights, holidays, and weekends, in hospitals and medical clinics, primarily in operating rooms. Surgical technologists report to surgeons, registered nurses, and other members of the surgical team.


Surgical Technologist Duties and Responsibilities

Surgical technologists perform varied job duties depending on the medical facility they work at and the types of surgical procedures performed there. However, these core duties are common during all operations and in all medical facilities:

Prepare for Sterile Surgical Procedures

Surgical technologists, as members of the operating room team, follow proper procedures to thoroughly scrub up prior to all surgeries. They also prepare the sterile instruments to be used during the procedure.

Assist with Surgical Procedures

Surgical technologists transport patients to and from the surgical suite, which includes lifting patients onto gurneys. They position patients and medical equipment during procedures, and also hold or hand instruments to members of the surgical team as requested.

Perform Medical Procedures

Surgical technologists perform minor medical procedures, such as cutting sutures and changing dressings.

Monitor Vital Signs

Surgical technologists monitor patient vital signs during procedures and alert the team if any potential problems arise.

Clean Surgical Suites

Surgical technologists clean up the operating room before and after procedures. This includes cleaning, sterilizing, and maintaining surgical instruments, as well as restocking operating room inventory with sponges, needles, and other supplies as needed.

Maintain Safety

Surgical technologists follow proper safety techniques at all times.


Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualifications

Surgical technologists need medical knowledge and familiarity with medical terminology to pass surgeons the instruments they need during operations. Hospitals hire surgical technologists who possess the following essential skills:

  • Medical knowledge – surgical technologists need at least basic knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology in order to understand operating room procedures and hand the proper instruments to the surgical team
  • Problem-solving skills – surgical technologists are quick thinkers who can problem-solve during medical procedures
  • Physical fitness – during a normal workday, surgical technologists must stand for long hours at a time and assist with lifting patients, which requires strength and endurance
  • Communication skills – surgical technologists need excellent verbal communication skills to respond quickly and accurately in the operating room when asked to pass instruments or complete other functions
  • Organization skills – surgical technologists are well-organized professionals with an eye for detail who keep operating rooms stocked and supplied


Tools of the Trade

Surgical technologists regularly use the following tools:

  • Surgical tools (forceps, scalpels, retractors)
  • Hospital equipment (gurneys, IVs, blood pressure cuffs)


Surgical Technologist Education and Training

Surgical technologists must have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to pursue this career path. Many employers additionally require candidates to have certification through a graduate technician program. Some hospitals only hire surgical technologists who have received basic life support (BLS) certification, which is issued through the Red Cross and many other institutions. CPR certification is not always required, but surgical technologists with CPR certification stand out to employers.

On-the-job training is provided to surgical technologists, the length of which varies by employer. This training period is designed to familiarize surgical technologists with operating room procedures and equipment.


Surgical Technologist Salary and Outlook

Surgical technologists earn a median salary of $22.26 hourly and $46,310 yearly. Full medical benefits, including dental and vision coverage, are provided to surgical technologists. Employers also offer paid vacation and sick days. Retirement benefits and life insurance come standard. Some medical facilities provide additional perks to employees, such as free cafeteria meals, free parking, and gym facility access.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than the average U.S. job growth rate.


Helpful Resources

Learn the terminology, tools, and tips surgical technologists need to know, and find various job strategies and educational opportunities, using these books and websites:

Association of Surgical Technologists – stay in the loop on public policies, news updates, and other important information for surgical technologists with AST

Surgical Technology for the Surgical Technologist: A Positive Care Approach – the detailed information in this book explains the surgical technologist’s role and includes descriptions and images of surgical tools and procedures that techs need to know

Association of Surgical Assistants – visit ASA to find certification programs and education resources for professional surgical assistants of all types, including surgical technologists

Operating Room Skills: Fundamentals for the Surgical Technologist – the fundamentals of operating room techniques and the essential skills surgical technologists need are comprehensively covered in this book

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting – everything that surgical technologists need to know about certification and education is available at this website, which also offers scholarship information

Surgical Anatomy and Physiology for the Surgical Technologist – this book covers anatomy and physiology with surgical technologists in mind, focusing specifically on operating room procedures


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