So, you want to become a Surgical Tech but are wondering about what exactly it requires to be one? Well, we are here to help.
The dynamic world of surgical technology is a great career choice that places you at the forefront of healthcare, helping save lives and ensuring patient care.
As a Surgical Tech, you hold a pivotal role in the operating room, where precision and your commitment to patient safety are paramount.
You are a crucial member of a surgical team that assists surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals in the OR during surgical procedures.
In this article, we will be discussing surgical techs, how they differ from surgical assistants, the diverse requirements from education to certification to skills, and much more.
Stay tuned –
Before we begin, you must have also heard about Surgical Assistants and must be wondering if they are the same are not. No, they both are completely different, so, let’s discuss that first –
How is Surgical Tech different from Surgical Assistant?
While both surgical technologists and surgical assistants play essential roles in the operating room, surgical assistants have more advanced training and a broader scope of practice, including a hands-on role in surgery itself.
Surgical technologists primarily focus on maintaining a sterile environment and providing support to the surgical team. The specific roles and responsibilities may vary depending on the surgical team, facility, and state regulations.
Here’s how they differ –
Role and Responsibilities
Surgical technologists are responsible for preparing the operating room, arranging surgical equipment and supplies, and ensuring a sterile environment. They assist surgeons and nurses during surgeries by passing instruments and supplies, handling specimens, and maintaining the sterile field.
Surgical assistants have an advanced skill set that includes assisting in surgery directly and performing specific surgical tasks. Their responsibilities may include suturing, clamping blood vessels, handling tissues, and providing exposure to the surgical site.
Education and Certification
Surgical technologists typically complete a diploma, certificate, or associate degree program in surgical technology. Certification as a CST is available but not always mandatory. However, many employers prefer or require certification.
Surgical assistants undergo more advanced and specialized training. They often complete a dedicated program in surgical assisting, which is typically more in-depth. They can apply for a certification – Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA), which is mandatory.
Scope of Practice
Surgical techs primarily focus on maintaining the sterile field and providing support to the surgical team. They do not perform surgical procedures or make incisions.
Surgical assistants have a broader scope of practice that includes actively assisting in surgical procedures, performing specific tasks, and sometimes making incisions under the surgeon’s supervision.
As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $27. However, the BLS states the annual average salary of Surgical Assistants is $57,290 with an hourly rate of around $28.
More On -> Surgical Tech Salary
Surgical Technologist Requirements
Actually; there are no specific educational or certification requirements for Surgical Technologists. Instead, employers determine the qualifications for these professionals.
While many prefer candidates with completed Surgical Technology programs, some prefer candidates with work experience and with/without CST certification.
However, with the changing rules and for the safer side, try getting CST, since this is a national certification and could serve well for your career.
It’s also essential to research and comply with the specific requirements and regulations in your state, as they may vary.
Let’s delve deeper –
Surgical Tech Education Requirements
To become a Surgical Technologist, you typically need to meet certain educational and certification requirements.
The education requirements to become a Surgical Tech typically include possession of –
- High School or GED equivalent
- A Surgical Technology program from accredited schools
Read -> How to Become a Surgical Tech?
Surgical Tech Program
If you have a High School Certificate, then you can enroll in a Surgical Tech program. You may also opt for online schools.
The Surgical Tech program typically results in a diploma, certificate, or associate degree in surgical technology.
These programs are often offered by community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, or universities.
It’s crucial to choose a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
During the program, you’ll receive classroom instruction as well as hands-on clinical training in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or surgical center.
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Surgical Tech Certification Requirements
There are two main certification providers for surgical technologists. Also, it is to be noted that the regulations may vary per state, so you should check it first.
- NBSTSA (National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting)
- NCCT (National Center for Competency Testing)
Requirements for Certifications –
- High School or GED equivalent
- Completed a Surgical Technology program from accredited schools (Transcript)
- Or undergo a military training program
- Or verifiable work experience (3 years) as a Surgical Technology practitioner
Surgical Technologists Requirements for State Licensing
There are no specific educational or certification requirements for Surgical Technologists. Instead, employers determine the qualifications for these professionals.
While many prefer candidates with completed Surgical Technology programs, some may also value candidates with work experience and national certification from NBSTSA.
However, no state requires licensing for Surgical Techs to work in the United States. But some prefer National Certification.
For those who do, AST (Association of Surgical Technologists) requires you to have –
- Accredited Surgical Tech Program
- Get Certified – through NBSTSA or NCCT
- Maintain CST certification valid by continuing education (CE) hours
States that require surgical techs to have education and national certification (CST) –
- New Jersey
- New York
- South Carolina
States that require surgical techs to have education but not national certification (CST) –
- North Dakota
States that offer optional registration and title protection –
Continuing Education (CE) Requirements for Surgical Technologists
If you have your CST status then you need to renew it periodically by maintaining your CE hours. You may also be required to pay a minimal fee for the re-certification process.
You must complete a minimum of 30 CE credits including 4 advanced credits before the two-year cycle expires.
As per the AST, here’s how you can earn the CE credits –
- AST distance CE (journal tests or CE packages)
- Hospital in-services
- College courses
- Live lectures at AST state assemblies, or other national conferences
- Healthcare manufacturer’s live events
Apart from the educational and certification requirements, surgical techs should also possess certain skills –
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work under pressure
- Manual dexterity
- Good communication skills
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Knowledge of medical terminology and surgical procedures
More On ->What Does a Surgical Tech Do?
FAQs – Requirements to Be a Surgical Tech
Is a Surgical Tech the same as an Operating Room Tech?
Surgical Tech and Operating Room Tech are often used interchangeably, with variations in terminology depending on the healthcare facility and region.
- They primarily focus on assisting surgeons and the surgical team during procedures.
- Their responsibilities include preparing the operating room, arranging surgical instruments and supplies, and maintaining a sterile environment.
- They pass instruments to surgeons, handle specimens, and assist with tasks related to surgery, such as suturing.
- They are responsible for ensuring the surgical team has everything needed during the procedure.
What is CST certification?
If you wish to get your certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, it offers you the title – Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).
To be eligible, you are typically required to complete an accredited formal education program or undergo a military training program.
Apart from that, you are required to document critical skills and pass an exam to be certified.
Which State pays Surgical Tech the most?
As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960 in the US, with an hourly rate of around $27. But, within the country, some states pay the CSTs better.
Top paying states to CSTs –
- Alaska – $73,960
- California – $72,860
- Connecticut – $71,430
- Nevada – $69,300
- Washington – $66,590
What is another name for a Certified Surgical Tech?
The Surgical Techs are also known by other titles like –
- Surgical Technologist
- Surgical Technicians
- Operating Room Technicians or the OR Tech
- Surgical Tech
- Scrub or Scrub Tech
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