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Surgical Technology

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Field description

Surgical technologists, also called "scrubs" or "operating room technicians," assist in surgeries under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses or other surgical personnel. Surgical technologists are members of operating room teams, which most commonly include surgeons, anesthesiologists and circulating nurses.

Before an operation, surgical technologists help prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes, and sterile solutions. They assemble both sterile and nonsterile equipment and ensure it's working properly.

Technologists also prepare patients for surgery by washing, clipping and disinfecting incision sites. They transport patients to the operating room, help position them on the operating table and cover them with sterile surgical drapes. Technologists also assist the surgical team with putting on sterile gowns and gloves.

During surgery, technologists pass instruments and other sterile supplies to surgeons and surgical assistants. They may hold retractors, cut sutures, and help count sponges, needles, supplies and instruments. Surgical technologists help prepare, care for and dispose of specimens taken for laboratory analysis and assist in applying dressings.

Some surgical technologists operate sterilizers, lights or suction machines, and assist with diagnostic equipment. Surgical technologists may help transfer patients to the recovery room following surgery and clean and restock the operating room.

Career opportunities

Employment of surgical technologists continues to grow. The number of surgical procedures is expected to rise as the population grows and ages. Technological advances, such as fiber optics, laser technology and robotics, also will introduce new surgical procedures.

Hospitals will continue as the primary employer of surgical technologists, although much faster employment growth is expected in offices and clinics of physicians, including ambulatory surgical centers.

Almost three-fourths of surgical technologists are employed by hospitals. Others are employed in clinics and surgical centers as well as in the offices of physicians and dentists who perform outpatient surgery. A few, known as private scrubs, are employed by surgeons who have special surgical teams, such as those for organ transplantation.

Technologists advance by specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open-heart surgery.

Some surgical technologists manage central supply departments in hospitals or take positions with insurance companies, sterile supply services and surgical equipment firms.

Earnings potential

According the Department of Labor, median annual earnings of surgical technologists were $39,920 in May 2010 (most recent data available). Salaries ranged from $28,100 to more than $57,330 for the highest 10 percent of wage earners.

Professional organizations

  • Sep 9, 2013
  • ART011252