The surgical technologist or technician is becoming an increasingly important part of any healthcare establishment. With the growing number of non-elective and elective surgical procedures being performed every day, surgical technicians, whether they are working at a traditional hospital, urgent care clinic or specialty practice are a vital component of any healthcare provider’s organization.
Due to this growing demand for surgical technicians, the field is becoming increasingly popular among newly graduated individuals and those who are seeking to transition to a new and more rewarding career alike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts sustained growth in career openings for surgical technicians through 2020.
In addition, an annual median wage of over $39,000 makes this career extremely competitive when compared to other careers requiring a similar level of education. Given the rise in the number of elderly individuals requiring surgical assistance, in addition to an increased emphasis on elective weight control and cosmetic surgical procedures, this field is likely to continue to enjoy a large number of career openings for the foreseeable future.
What Should a Student Expect From a Surgical Technology Program
Those interested in surgical technology should make certain that they are enrolled in a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The CAAHEP ensures that an accredited program has a comprehensive curriculum and high quality instructors that can effectively train surgical technicians. Furthermore, the CAAHEP periodically reviews accredited programs to ensure that they remain current with the modern state of healthcare science.
Types of Surgical Technology Programs
There are a variety of types of surgical technology programs. In addition to programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools and adult education centers also offer accredited surgical technology programs.
In most cases, an accredited full-time program will take approximately two years for a student to complete. However, many schools offer part-time and distance learning options for those students who are working or otherwise unable to attend classes on a full-time schedule. In many cases, these classes are offered during the evenings or on weekends in order to provide the greatest amount of flexibility for part-time students.
The Subjects Surgical Technology Programs Cover
Surgical techs must provide a variety of services to surgeons, anesthesiologists and the rest of the surgical team, as well as being able to assist other medical professionals outside of the operating room. Because of this, surgical technology programs cover a wide variety of subjects.
Among the common subjects a student will have to master are the following:
- Medical terminology, especially as it relates to surgical procedures.
- General and specialty surgical procedures.
- Operating room techniques and policies.
- Clinical practices.
- Techniques to eliminate the danger of postoperative infections, including how to ensure that surgical tools and supplies remain sterile.
- Medical ethics, especially relating to the responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of patient information.
- Emergency room and trauma care surgical policies and procedures.
In all cases, successfully completing these courses will require attention to detail and excellent communication skills. This is especially important given the fact that surgical techs must be able to immediately respond to the surgeon’s requests during an operation.
Practical Training for Surgical Techs
Most surgical technology programs also include a hands-on component where the students work in a clinical setting, observing and participating in surgical procedures under the guidance of their instructors or other practicing surgeons. This training is extremely important as many of the skills of a surgical technician can only be developed through practical experience.
In some cases, a surgical technician may be able to enter an internship, either before or after his or her graduation from the surgical technology program. Internships provide the technician with experience, in addition to allowing him or her to receive a salary. Most importantly, internships combine the practical experience a regular surgical technology job will provide with the guidance provided by the intern’s mentors and instructors. In addition, a successful internship will often lead to a permanent job after its completion.
Specialties in Surgical Technology
Some programs will also offer courses to prepare their students for specialized fields in surgical technology. These specialties can include fields such as emergency surgical procedures or specialized fields such as dental surgery, ocular (eye) surgery, or elective procedures such as weight control or cosmetic surgery. While the general requirements will remain the same, specialty fields often have specific educational requirements that must be covered.
A surgical technician must be prepared to work under stressful conditions while remaining calm and professional. Furthermore, a surgical tech must be able to work as part of a team of medical professionals. Effective surgical tech programs prepare their students for this, in addition to the academic skills they teach. However, by successfully completing a surgical technology program, the successful student will be prepared to enter a career that enjoys promising salary options and is continuing to grow in importance to the American healthcare sector.