The surgical technician or surgical technologist is an indispensable, though junior member of a medical operating team. They put in their working hours either in the operating room or in an adjacent area prepping patients. They perform a variety of roles during the course of a day in the surgical suite and at some point perform important tasks both in the preparation for and conduct of surgical procedures.


The educational requirements for a surgical technician can be included in a certificate, a diploma or an associate’s degree. The programs can take from nine months to two years. In this field, the associate’s degree is going to vastly reduce the amount of on the job training that will be required of the staff, and also reduce your confusion upon walking into a new career.

Certification in the field is available, and is preferable to most employers. It is obtained from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting by taking a national exam. Upon successful completion of the exam you have become a Certified Surgical Technologist, a designation which requires continuing education and renewal every four years.

Medical Duties

Prior to a surgical procedure it is the technician’s job to prep the operating room by laying out the appropriate surgical instruments and equipment, and test all equipment to ensure its functionality. They have first contact with the patient, prepping them by shaving, washing and disinfecting the area where the surgical incision is to be made. Once the patient is in the operating room, the technician positions the patient and provides sterile drapes.

During surgery assists in providing the appropriate surgical instruments and supplies to the surgeon and assisting personnel, provide sponges, hold retractors, cut sutures, help extract specimens and prepare them for laboratory analysis. They may be called upon to help with suction tubes, diagnostic equipment or sterilizers during the procedure.

Professional Advancement

Certified surgical technicians who have had additional training have the option to become what is called a surgical first assistant, or “circulator.” At this point most technicians develop the professional designation of technologist. Their role during a surgical procedure is to provide direct assistance to the surgeon in helping to control blood flow and helping to avoid or bring a halt to hemorrhaging, and perform other tasks under the doctor’s direction. The American College of Surgeons defines the circulator as the “unsterile” member of the team, prepping the patient, assisting with anesthesia, opening sterile packages for members of the surgical team and providing similar support services.

Job Growth

Over the upcoming decade this profession is projected to grow at about two and a half times the average rate for jobs overall. The field is wide open for new graduates; it’s a fascinating opportunity for those interested in medical science. A surgical technician can participate in the practice of medicine at its highest form after achieving a technician’s education. As new procedures using laser technology and fiberoptics are developed, the role of the technician will expand along with the capabilities of operating room procedures.

Author's Bio: 

Bob Hartzell writes on education and careers for several websites