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What Does a Surgical Technologist Do?

There are many important roles in the medical field that don’t get as much public attention as, say, surgeons or other major roles. One of these is the surgical technologist, who provides a valuable service in the health care industry but might not be familiar to many prospective students. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics states simply that surgical technologists assist during surgical operations under the direct supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other personnel. Their role is largely a preparatory one, helping to organize the operating room and get the scene ready for the operating surgeon.

Before an operation begins, surgical techs set up the instruments the surgeon will need, assemble the sterile and non-sterile tools, and check to make sure everything is functioning correctly. A surgical technologist will also often work with the patient by cleaning and disinfecting their incision areas. The tech will transport the patient to the operating room, monitor their vital signs, and assist the surgical staff in donning gowns and gloves. Basically, a surgical technologist is a medically trained assistant who helps get things done in the operating room, allowing the surgical team to work together smoothly and perform operations with greater ease. But a surgical technologist isn’t just a pair of hands. The role requires training and education, as underscored by the Association of Surgical Technologists in their job description of surgical techs. They stress that surgical technologists possess “expertise in the theory and application of sterile and aseptic technique,” and that they be able to “combine the knowledge of human anatomy, surgical procedures, and implementation tools and technologies to facilitate a physician’s performance of invasive therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.”

Surgical technologists often operate sterilizers or other light machines during the surgery, as well as pass instruments to the surgeon. Some surgical technologists with additional training and certification can also serve as surgical assistants, which involves controlling blood flow and other tasks under the surgeon’s supervision to help the surgery be executed safely. Pursuing a career as a surgical technologist is a great way to become a vital part of the operating room process and the larger health care industry.