A surgical technician, also called a surgical technologist, is a trained professional whose job is extremely important to people undergoing surgery. The roles of a surgical technician may vary among countries and even between medical facilities within a country. Surgical technicians complete special training, usually lasting from about one to two years, either at community or trade colleges. They may also be certified through various agencies, and take examinations after completing school to get certification.
One of the most important aspects of many surgical technician jobs is learning how to prepare operating rooms so that they are sterile, which helps lower the rate of infection in patients. In general, surgical techs don't actually clean up the operating rooms; this is left to maintenance staff. Surgical techs may oversee cleaning and prepare and sterilize all instruments that might be needed in an operation. They may also help prepare a patient for surgery, including shaving, cleaning, and disinfecting surgery sites.
During actual surgeries the surgical technician is on hand to assist in a variety of roles. Techs must be able to follow directions accurately, quickly and carefully, so they need familiarity with the names of the many instruments a surgeon might require during an operation. Due to the fact that the surgical technician is usually present during operations, tolerance for seeing open surgeries is important.
The surgical technician may help to prep surgeons and nurses to go into the sterile environment, and they support the surgeon by supplying her with anything she might need. In some cases, techs may assist by helping surgeons put on operating room clothing, gloves, and caps, so that after a surgeon has fully scrubbed, she remains completely sterile before entering the operating room. As surgery progresses, the surgical tech watches to be sure no one has violated sterile procedures.
Depending on the type of surgery being performed, a surgical technician may be required to stand in one place for long periods of time. It's important that he or she remain alert during the entire procedure to help ensure patient safety. He or she may also help take care of specimens, assist with dressings, and prepare medication.
After surgery, the tech is often responsible for removing all used instruments. He or she is usually expected to make sure the equipment is maintained and cared for properly. He or she may also be responsible for making sure the operating room is ready for the next patient.
Before and after surgery, a surgical technician may assist with the transportation of patients to and from the operating room, although this is not true in all hospitals. He or she may deliver charts with a physician's orders, and may arrange for the type of room or location in a hospital to which a patient needs transport.
Some people choose to work as a surgical technician for many years, while for others, it may be a first step toward other healthcare positions. A senior technician, for example, may supervise other technicians and help to train staff. Technicians may also choose to specialize in a particular area, such as open heart surgery, and advance in this way. With additional training — through a degree program or on the job — a surgical technician may take on the job of a surgical assistant. These healthcare professionals are more directly involved in the actual surgery, helping the surgeon with suctioning, suturing, and other tasks.