The surgical tech may be the "low person on the totem pole" in the operating room, but the position is not typically one that requires micromanagement. The surgical technician must be a highly motivated, self-starting individual.
The Surgical Technologist Role
The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) breaks down the responsibilities of the surgical tech by type of surgery. The surgical technologist will always have similar roles, but the responsibilities within, such as a robotic surgery environment versus an electrosurgery unit (ESU), will vary slightly.
The surgical technologist is responsible for arranging supplies and sterilizing all equipment, which can range from scalpels and tables to robotic equipment. Depending on state and hospital protocols, the surgical technologist may also be responsible for pre-op patient care as well.
A surgical technologist can be promoted to the first assistant, and although they can share the same title in some instances, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the first assistant is more hands-on in assisting with surgical procedures.
The First Assistant Role
The first assistant helps the surgeon during the procedure by passing her the necessary instruments and helping to control blood flow. While at the operating table, the first assistant is under direct supervision of the surgeon. The technician may help the doctor by applying bandages, holding retractors and, sometimes, holding organs in place. As the team works together, the surgeon learns the skills and potential of the surgical technician.
Preparing for the Surgical Tech Role
Preparation to become a surgical technician starts in surgical tech school, but it helps if you also have previous experience volunteering in a hospital. You may also need letters of recommendation from teachers or professionals within the hospital environment to apply to training programs. Most programs are around 2 years for an associate degree. When you have passed your certifications and are ready to look for work, make sure you have recent letters of recommendation to show to any prospective employers.
The surgical tech role is a respected position and requires a highly motivated individual. In the operating room, there is usually just one surgical technician performing all of that role's duties, and everything must be done correctly. The team in the operating room will help a surgical technician who is new to the job, but the surgical technician is an important part of the surgical team and needs to be able to function without micromanagement.
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