Surgical Technology Training Program | CHAC Surgical Tech School in Carson, California
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Surgical Technology Program | Carson, CA

Doctors and nurses aren’t the only important people in an operating room when someone’s life is on the line – surgical technologists who completed accredited surgical technology training programs assist them with life-saving procedures. A scrub, also called “scrub tech“, “surgical technician” or “operating room technician,” is an allied health professional working as a part of the team delivering surgical care. They possess knowledge and skills in sterile and aseptic techniques. There are few mandatory professional requirements for surgical technologists, and the scope of practice varies widely across countries and jurisdictions. The goal is for surgical technologists to be able to anticipate the next move the surgeon is going to make in order to make the procedure as smooth and efficient as possible. They do this by having the knowledge of hundreds of surgical procedures and the steps the surgeon needs to take in order to complete the procedure including the very wide range of surgical instruments they may need.

Surgical Technologists are very specialized professionals and work under the supervision of a surgeon, registered nurse (RN), or other surgical personnel (such as a more senior Technologists), to help ensure that the operating room or environment is safe, that equipment functions properly, and that the operative procedure is conducted under conditions that maximize patient safety. They handle the instruments, scrubs, medications, and other supplies and equipment necessary during the surgical procedure. They perform basic tasks such as checking patients’ medical charts and consent forms, and preparing sterile dressings. Surgical Technologists also train other OR personnel such as new technologists and new circulating RNs.

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What is a Surgical Technologist?

The Surgical Technologist is the person who stands elbow-to-elbow with the surgeon and passes the instruments. After the surgeon, the surgical technologist is the next person closest to the surgery. A Surgical Technologist (ST) is an allied health professional who works as part of the surgical team to ensure that the operative procedure is conducted under optimal conditions. Surgical team members function in two capacities – non-sterile and sterile. The non-sterile team members are the circulator and the anesthesia provider. In certain situations, other personnel such as the radiology technologist or pathologist may also be present. The sterile team members are the surgeon, the surgical assistant, and the Surgical Technologist in the scrub role.

It is his or her job to maintain the sterile field and to respond to the surgeon’s needs. In operating rooms in this area, only the surgeon, the surgical technologists, and possibly a resident or intern “scrub in” wash hands in sterile fashion, put-on gowns, masks and gloves and have contact with the surgical opening. It is the surgical technologists’ responsibility to be aware of everything going on in the operating room and to make sure that sterility is maintained. The surgical technologist is also responsible for counting the instruments, needles, blades, scalpels, sponges and other paraphernalia before and after the operation, in cooperation with the circulating nurse. The STalso helps physically arrange the patient for surgery.The ST normally functions as a sterile capacity during the surgical procedure, but also performs many non-sterile duties (referred to as circulating) throughout the course of the workday.

The ST is responsible for three phases of patient care, or surgical case management, with minimal direction or supervision from their surgical team members. All surgical team members must adhere to the principles of asepsis and the practice of sterile technique. Honesty and moral integrity are necessary to uphold these standards.

Some of the duties of the ST in each phase of case management include:

  • Preoperative Case Management
    • Don operating room (OR) attire and personal protective equipment
    • Prepare the OR
    • Gather necessary equipment and supplies
    • Create and maintain the sterile field
    • “Scrub” and don sterile gown and gloves
    • Organize the sterile field for use
    • Count necessary items
    • Assist team members during entry of the sterile field
    • Expose the operative site with sterile drapes
  • Intraoperative Case Management
    • Maintain the sterile field
    • Pass instrumentation, equipment, and supplies to the surgeon and surgical assistant as needed
    • Assess and predict (anticipate) the needs of the patient and surgeon and provide the necessary items in order of need
    • Medication preparation and handling
    • Count necessary items
    • Specimen care
    • Dressing application
  • Postoperative Case Management
    • Maintenance of the sterile field until the patient is transported
    • Removal of used instruments, equipment, and supplies from the OR
    • Care and maintenance of instruments, equipment, and supplies following use
    • Preparation of the OR for the next patient

Surgical Technologists need manual dexterity to handle instruments quickly. They also must be conscientious, orderly, and emotionally stable to handle the demands of the operating room environment. Technologists must respond quickly and know the procedures well enough to have instruments ready for surgeons without having to be told. They are expected to keep abreast of new developments in the field. Other skills required to succeed as a surgical technologist include: physical strength, eye/hand coordination, critical thinking skills, concentration, good interpersonal relations, memorization and sequencing.

The proficient ST must display a caring attitude toward the patient, other surgical team members, and the patient care environment. It is also necessary to understand normal anatomy and physiology, the pathological condition affecting the patient, the planned operative procedure, and consider any variations that may be necessary to accommodate a specific patient.

Surgical Technologists have many duties before, during and after surgery. Being elbow-to-elbow with the surgeon gives the Surgical Tech an opportunity to participate in the greater good and is able to impact countless lives every day.While Surgical Techs don’t actually perform surgery on patients, they are an integral part of the surgical team and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

Before Surgery:

  • Surgical Techs get a list of supplies that are needed for the procedure. This list also includes details regarding the surgeon’s personal preferences and whether they’re right- or left-handed – the doctor’s dominant hand helps determine how the room is organized.
  • After going through the list, the surgical tech is responsible for transporting supplies to the operating room and arranging them in their proper positions. Once preparation is complete, surgical techs put on their sterile gowns, gloves and protective masks.
  • While the surgical tech is preparing the operating room the nurse and anesthesia technician will guide the patient onto the operating table, position them correctly and wash the area of skin where the incision will occur. The final piece of preparation for the surgical tech is to apply sterile drapes around the patient.

During Surgery:

  • The Surgical Tech’s role is to hand the proper instruments and medication to the surgeon. (While this may sound mundane, surgical techs actually need to know the names of hundreds of medical instruments. Learning the names of all the instruments used in the operating room may sound like a daunting task, but it’s something surgical tech students study extensively in the classroom).
  • The Surgical Tech can even be hands-on with the patient. Very often they have an opportunity to assist the surgeon by holding retractors and manipulating tissue.
  • Throughout the procedure Surgical Techs need to think ahead and ask themselves important questions – What will the surgeon ask for next? How is this procedure going? Might there be any complications?

After Surgery:

  • The Surgical Tech applies bandages to the patient and assists in removing the patient from the room.
  • Surgical Techs are also a part of the team that cleans up the operating room post-surgery, alongside housekeeping staff and the nurses. This is an important step to lower the risk of infections. Cleaning includes gathering up the used instruments and laundry and preparing for the next procedure by putting everything in place.
  • A Surgical Tech’s day doesn’t include much downtime – depending on the facility, surgical techs are often asked to help sterilize instruments or assist other surgeries when they’re done with their own.

Surgical Technologists held about 98,500 jobs in 2012. Most Surgical Technologists work in hospitals. Some work in outpatient care centers or in offices of physicians who perform outpatient surgery.

Surgical Technologists wear scrubs (special sterile clothing) while they are in the operating room. Their work may be physically demanding, as they may be on their feet for long periods. Surgical Technologists may also need to help move patients or lift heavy trays of medical supplies. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.

Most Surgical Technologists work full time. Surgical technologists employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.Employment of Surgical Technologists is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors will lead to demand for surgical technologists.

Advances in medical technology have made surgery safer, and more operations are being done to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. The aging of the large baby-boom generation also is expected to increase the need for surgical technologists because older people usually require more operations. Moreover, as these individuals age, they may be more willing than those in previous generations to seek medical treatment to improve their quality of life. For example, an individual may decide to have a knee replacement operation in order to maintain an active lifestyle. Hospitals will continue to employ Surgical Technologists to work in operating rooms because they are more cost-effective than higher-paid registered nurses.

Most STs are employed in hospital surgery departments, obstetric departments, and ambulatory care centers. However, because of the broad educational background combined with a specialized focus, the following options are also available to the experienced ST: Note: Some of these positions will require further education.

  • Specialization in an area of interest such as cardiac, orthopedic, or pediatric surgery
  • Employment as a traveling ST
  • Advancement to the role of the surgical assistant
  • Employment by a veterinary surgeon or animal care facility
  • Employment by a medical corporation to represent their products
  • Research and product development
  • Employment in the materiel management or central supply areas
  • Assumption of supervisory responsibilities
  • Surgical technology educator or Military service
  • Be at least 18 years old. If younger than 18, applicant must provide valid high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Provide a valid high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Interview with an admissions representative and tour the campus.
  • Complete all requisite forms in the admissions pack

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