Surgical Tech Job Description

Surgical techs, also known as surgical technologists and surgical technicians, assist the operating room team during surgical procedures. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities hire surgical techs to work full-time hours for shifts that may include nights, weekends, and holidays, depending on the facility. Surgical techs work as part of a team environment and primarily report to department administrators, head surgeons, and other supervisors. Travel outside the facility is not required for this job.


Surgical Tech Duties and Responsibilities

Specific job duties for surgical techs vary based on the medical facility they work at and the surgical procedures being performed. However, there are many core duties associated with this job:

Observe Scrubbing Procedures

Surgical techs scrub their hands, fingernails, wrists, and arms before and after surgical procedures.

Prepare Operating Suite

Prior to procedures, surgical techs arrange the sterile set up of the instrument tray. This includes cleaning and sterilizing equipment as well as counting sponges, needles, and instruments. They also adjust lights and equipment before and during procedures.

Assist During Surgical Procedures

During procedures, surgical techs perform many different duties. They help prepare and move patients to the operating room. They pass requested items to members of the operating teamand hold tools, such as retractors. Theyobserve patient vital statistics and monitor surgical equipment, and also maintain supplies of fluids like blood, saline, plasma, and glucose.

Prepare Specimens

Surgical techs prepare tissue specimens for delivery to the lab.

Maintain Confidentiality

Surgical techs maintain patient safety and confidentiality at all times.

Clean and Resupply Operating Rooms

After procedures, surgical techs clean up the operating room. This includes sterilizing surfaces and restocking supplies in operating suites.


Surgical Tech Skills and Qualifications

Surgical techs are detail-oriented professionals with strong communication skills who react quickly and respond immediately to assist surgeons and other staff members during medical procedures of all types. Medical facilities that hire surgical techs look for candidates who display the following abilities:

  • Medical knowledge – surgical techs have a working knowledge of medical terminology and familiarity with the instruments used during surgical procedures
  • Communication skills – surgical techs need strong verbal communication skills to effectively and quickly respond to requests for tools and provide assistance during medical procedures
  • Time management – surgical techs use time management skills to work within tight deadlines and complete multiple tasks in a short period of time
  • Problem-solving skills – good problem-solving skills are essential for surgical techs, who must provide immediate assistance to surgeons by bringing fluids, tools, and equipment as needed
  • Physical fitness – surgical techs stand for hours at a time, assist in lifting and moving patients, and must move quickly, all of which requires physical fitness
  • Math skills – surgical techs must know the metric system, which requires at least basic math skills
  • Attention to detail – surgical techs are detail-oriented professionals who use keen observational skills to monitor patients and equipment during procedures


Tools of the Trade

Surgical techs regularly work with the following tools:

  • Surgical tools (clamps, scissors, forceps, scalpels, retractors)
  • Vital statistics tools (monitors, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers)
  • Operating room equipment (gurneys, instrument trays, IVs)


Surgical Tech Education and Training

Surgical techs must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most facilities also require surgical techs to complete a technical or vocational program or have equivalent job experience. CPR certification is required for all surgical techs.

Medical facilities provide hands-on training for surgical techs. The length of the training period varies by facility but can last for several weeks. During training, surgical techs memorize the names of instruments and work closely with a training supervisor before advancing to actual hands-on operating room work.


Surgical Tech Salary and Outlook

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that surgical technologists earn a median annual income of $46,310. There were more than 100,000 jobs for surgical technologists, also known as surgical techs, in 2016. This number is projected to rise 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than the national job growth average.

Employers provide surgical techs with health insurance benefits that include dental and vision coverage. Life insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacation leave, and sick days are also standard benefits for surgical techs. Many medical facilities provide additional benefits, such as fitness center access, free parking, and cafeteria meal discounts.


Helpful Resources

Learn more about surgical tools, find job opportunities, and get information about operating room tools and procedures with these resources:

Surgical Notes: A Pocket Survival Guide for the Operating Room – this book contains information about surgical techniques, including setup, identifying instruments, and effective communication, tools all surgical techs need

Association of Surgical Technologists – find news updates, education information, and public policy resources at this website dedicated to surgical techs

Flashcards for Differentiating Surgical Instruments – this book is a series of flash cards of basic surgical instruments that are commonly used during procedures

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting – learn more about verification programs, find practice exams, and discover test prep apps at this website

Surgical Technology for the Surgical Technologist: A Positive Care Approach – full of text and full-color illustrations, this book was written to introduce surgical techs to operating room equipment, supplies, common practices and techniques, and helpful memory tricks

Association of Surgical Assistants – learn more about education opportunities and certification programs for surgical techs at this website


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