A surgical technologist performs a variety of duties to assist surgeons, nurses and other surgical personnel in the course of surgical operations. A surgical technologist's duties include preparing surgical equipment and instruments, preparing the patient for surgery and transporting the patient to the operating room. Many surgical technologists also assist physicians and nurses with the sterile gowns and gloves.
During surgery, a surgical technologist assists the operating personnel by passing surgical instruments to them and keeping count of supplies, such as sponges, needles and other instruments. They may also cut sutures, apply dressings and operate some of the diagnostic equipment. After surgery, a technologist will likely restock the operating room and sterilize it. Some technologists also help transport the patient out of the operating room.
Universities, hospitals and community and junior colleges, as well as military and vocational schools, train students for a position as a surgical technologist. Generally, these programs last nine to 24 months and involve both classroom study and clinical experience. Students study anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, professional ethics and medical terminology, among other topics. Other topics that are covered in a surgical technologist training program include sterilizing techniques, patient safety and infection control and prevention.
Surgical technologists should have good dexterity and be quick with responses. It is also important for a surgical technologist to be orderly and emotionally stable, as some situations are critical. They must also be able to stand for long periods of time without complications and should not be bothered by the sights and smells of medical procedures.
Two organizations in the U.S. certify surgical technologists. By graduating from an accredited program and passing a national exam, administered by the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist, a technologist can use the Certified Surgical Technologist designation. The National Center for Competency Testing also certifies surgical technologists who have on-the-job training, as well as those who have graduated from an accredited school. If the surgical technologist passes the required exam, he or she may use the Tech in Surgery-Certified designation.
Most surgical technologists work in hospitals and have a 40-hour work week, which may include nights, weekends and holidays. Some work for physicians and dentists who perform outpatient surgery.