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What Is a Surgical Tech Training Program Like?

Becoming a surgical technologist means enrolling in an accredited degree program that will allow you to eventually take the exam to become a certified surgical tech and get a great job in the field. Your choice of school is an important one for many reasons, not least of which is that this is where your first training will take place. Everything you’ll do as an employed surgical technologist must first be learned with hands-on practice via your college or university.

Surgical tech training programs offer students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tools and procedures they’ll be using in a real-world operating room. Courses typically include anatomy and physiology, basic and advanced medical terminology, biology and microbiology, pharmacology, and medical ethics. But while those and similar courses are often universal across medical majors, surgical technologist programs also focus on the specific duties required of certified techs. That means classes in how to care for a patient during surgery, how to sterilize instruments and maintain their integrity, and just what is involved in a surgical procedure. Additional courses include how to handle drugs and how to counteract infection.

It’s also not uncommon for a surgical tech training program to allow students to participate in mock surgeries that let them learn how to function in a fast-paced operating environment without risking the health of actual patients. But it’s not all trial runs. Surgical technologist training programs also place students in real operating rooms under the guidance of practicing surgeons, and clinical experience through "externships" — in which students work at a local hospital or clinic to gain firsthand knowledge — is a vital part of the training process.

Many surgical tech training programs also offer career placement counseling for students, whether through the individual school or in conjunction with the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST). These are helpful programs that offer students assistance in finding jobs after graduation, and some students wind up being hired by the same hospital where they served their externship (though that’s not always the case.)

The bottom line is that an accredited surgical tech program will train a student with a mix of lab work, academic study, and hands-on experience to provide the best simulation possible of what it’s really like to be a surgical technologist. From there, it’s up the student to apply the knowledge in the field.