Healthcare is a continually growing sector in the American economy. With the rise of an ever-increasing number of elective medical procedures, coupled with America’s emphasis on health care, especially among the elderly, healthcare is currently one of the most vibrant sources of employment in the nation.
One of the more important individuals within the healthcare sector is the surgical technical, who is vital to the operation of any surgical practice, no matter its size or specialization.
The Surgical Technician and the Modern Healthcare Industry
The healthcare industry currently includes a growing focus on surgical procedures for a number of purposes. Among them are the following procedures, all of which can require the assistance of a surgical technician:
- Emergency surgical intervention for patients that have suffered from an unexpected accident or illness such as appendicitis.
- Scheduled procedures for non-elective surgery, such as the removal of tumors, or the surgical repair of broken bones, especially complex fractures.
- Minor surgeries that are performed on an outpatient basis. These include surgical procedures to cure minor injuries performed at urgent care clinics.
- Elective surgical procedures, such as cosmetic modifications to the patient.
- Transplants, dental surgery or other specialized procedures.
With the current emphasis on health in America, more individuals than ever are receiving elective or non-elective surgery, ranging from common procedures to complex surgeries designed to restore the full function of damaged limbs.
Surgery and the Elderly
Furthermore, the growing numbers of the elderly in America have resulted in an increasing need for various forms of surgery for elderly patients. For example, falls are now one of the leading causes of death and injury among the elderly, and the resultant fractures often require surgical procedures to ensure a complete recovery.
Because of this, surgical tech jobs are likely to continue to increase, as the long-term trend in America will continue to see more elderly patients that require various forms of surgical procedures. This is especially likely due to the increasing life expectancy of both middle-aged and younger individuals.
The Duties of the Surgical Technician
Surgical technicians work to support the surgeon, nurses and other professionals before, during and after surgical procedures. Their assistance is a vital part of ensuring that any operation proceeds in a smooth and effective fashion. Among the most common duties of the surgical tech are the following:
- Ensuring that all tools and dressings are properly prepared for the surgery. This includes ensuring that they have been effectively sterilized in order to avoid the danger of infection from contaminated equipment.
- Ensuring that the operating room is prepared for the surgical procedure by checking equipment and supplies to ensure that all components are present and operating correctly.
- Surgical technicians often assist in transporting the patient to the surgery.
- The surgical tech will assist in preparing the patient for the surgery, by cleaning and disinfecting the incision sites on the patient’s body. Additionally they will position the patient in order to prepare them for surgery.
- Assisting the surgical team in dressing for the surgery by ensuring that surgical gloves, gowns and other items of clothing are sterile.
- During the surgery, the tech will assist the surgeon and nurses by providing the required equipment and supplies to them as needed during the course of the operation.
Additionally, a surgical technician must be capable of effectively communicating with the surgeons, nurses, and his or her fellow surgical technicians. This is especially important in emergency or trauma care surgery, where the surgical tech may have to operate in a quickly changing situation, where fast and accurate action is vital to the patient’s health.
Becoming a Surgical Tech
Surgical technicians are generally high school graduates or the equivalent, who have successfully completed a postsecondary program in surgical technology. Most of these programs can be found at community colleges or private vocational schools.
Completing a surgical technology program can take anywhere from several months to two years or more. In many cases, the length depends on whether or not the student is attending a program full-time or as a part-time student. In addition, a number of programs have distance-learning provisions, allowing students to complete their work via online courses, which can be beneficial for those students who are working or who have family obligations.
Finally, a growing number of surgical tech programs have been accredited since 2010, when the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) started to accredit qualified surgical tech programs. Students graduating from accredited programs may enjoy better post-graduation job opportunities, as well as finding it easier to become a certified surgical tech.
Certified Surgical Techs
A growing number of surgical techs are choosing to become certified technicians, in order to improve their professional qualifications. Becoming a certified surgical tech requires the following steps:
- Successfully completing an accredited surgical tech program.
- Passing an exam that tests the technician’s academic and practical qualifications as a surgical tech.
- Completing an ongoing program of continuing education to ensure that his or her knowledge remains current.
Several organizations provide certification for qualified technicians, and in some states, becoming a certified tech may be required for certain jobs. In addition, certified techs may find it easier to progress to more specialized medical careers such as becoming a registered nurse.
The Employment Outlook for Surgical Techs
In today’s economy, surgical tech jobs remain a dynamic source of employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that over 90,000 surgical techs are currently working in America and that number is likely to increase by 19 percent by 2020. With a median yearly wage of over $39,000, surgical technicians can expect to enjoy a long-term and secure career. Finally, the rising importance of healthcare within America makes the surgical technologist a vital and honored component of a profession that the community depends on for their long-term health.