Can someone give me a run down on being a Surgical Tech?

  1. I was looking at my local college, and being in Rochester with the Mayo Clinic, there are a lot of medical programs available. I'd been looking at the Registered Nursing, Radiology, and Surgical Technology. All of them are 2 years courses (although with the RN, I think some people go elsewhere for another 2 years for a 4 year degree). Anyway - I've been looking into the Surgical Tech program more seriously because it sounds really interesting - and more towards something I could do, and would love to do. The RN interests me too, but I honestly don't think I'd be cut out for it in reality. I did some google searching and couldn't find much in the way of forums though, and I wanted to get some personal opinions. This is the only good looking place that came up in my search. Basically, I'm wondering if any OR Nurses, or Surgical Techs, could tell me what it's like to actually be a surg tech, and perhaps what it takes. I know reading my college's info and from doing random searches that it can be a somewhat physically demanding job (no bathroom breaks for up to 6 hours, standing around for basically hours on end possibly, etc, etc). I know that they're basically the 2nd assistant (it seems the Surg Assistant gets to do more hands on, while the Surg Tech seems more like a prep person who assists as well). But I was hoping to get some first hand info on what it's really like, and what it demands from a person. One issue I'm worried about is my unchecked bladder issue - I appear to have a massively overactive bladder. One can of pop can seriously send me to the bathroom 4-5 times in an hour sometimes (other times it does nothing)... I was checked years ago and they found nothing wrong, but I haven't done anything recent about it (but I am going to set up an appt. with my doctor sometime in a the next month or so). I also tend to get a sore back from standing too long, but I think that's just an out-of-shape issue, I need to get myself back into shape. Those are my only other real concerns. I've got good ears, good eyes, good co-ordination, if I want something enough - I'm a hard worker... I've got a 2 month old daughter, and I'm basically looking to go back to College in a year or so (maybe Fall 2009) and get a degree in something that I can hopefully do the rest of my life. That's basically my story. As I said before, I'm hoping some people can give me some first hand info on what the job is really like and what it requires in a person. Thanks for any help.
  2. Visit MooCow67 profile page

    About MooCow67

    Joined: Jul '08; Posts: 4


  3. by   MooCow67
    Holy Wall of text. Sorry - I have noscript, and forgot to disable it for the site - so it sends walls of texts when I post on forums that have scripts blocked. I can't find an edit button anywhere either, so sorry for all that.

    I wanted to add to my post - what sort of things would you suggest someone start studying if they wanted to eventually go into a Surg Tech course? Instrument names, what they're used for, sterilization processes, etc, etc... And does anyone know some good websites or books to study from?

    I wouldn't mind getting a bit of a head start should I choose to enroll next year
  4. by   ewattsjt
    first, let’s clarify the roles in surgery. rns can do most of it except being the surgeon. they can first assist, second assist, scrub, circulate and with additional training they can anesthetize the patient in certain states or facilities credentialed as certified registered nurse anesthetists (crna). different states and facilities may have law or policy that dictates who does what in the different roles. you must adhere to it for your location. the roles given can and often times overlap as it is a team effort to see that the patient receives the best care possible with optimal outcomes.

    the scrub role typically is a surgical technologist (st) and some areas the licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse (lpn/lvn). there are many programs for st but the credential that more and more facilities are wanting is the certified surgical technologist (cst). one must be a graduate of a caahep accredited program. the scrub role gets the case and sets up and opens it. they are responsible for maintaining the sterile field and making sure all the instruments are there and in working order. they count with the circulator the sharps, sponges and instruments. they set up and verify the equipment and may assist in draping and passing items off field (cords and suction for the procedure). during the procedure they pass the instruments (must anticipate what the surgeon and/or assistant needs next) and are responsible for maintaining the instruments. at the end of the procedure, they make sure the counts are correct. there is a lot more but i think that this sums it up.

    the circulator role is an rn (there are a few states that can still use techs but not many actually do). they interview and assess the patient, sometimes transport the patient back to the or, assist in moving the patient to the or bed, attach the monitoring devices to the patient and assist anesthesia in the induction process. they position, prep, pass the meds to the scrub (verifying allergies, drug type, concentration, expiration date) count with the scrub, etc… plus document everything from what time in the or, to exactly what was prepped and agents used, to where the grounding site and/or tourniquet site is, to when the tourniquet goes up or down, time of incision, when and what amount of meds were given etc, etc, etc, etc… the end of the case they count and help transport the patient to recovery and give a report to the nurse receiving the patient there. there is also a lot more to this job also but i am only giving a summary and believe it or not<<that was brief. lol

    sometimes but not always you will have an assistant. it is sometimes another surgeon but is sometimes a physician assistant (pa) or nurse practitioner (np). these assistants are typically hired by the surgeon and they see patients in the office. they require a master degree in their chosen profession. other assistants include the registered nurse first assistant (rnfa), some are certified and called crnfa, certified first assistant (cfa) and certified surgical assistant (csa). some facilities use non trained assistants; they are not specifically trained in tissue handling uses of electrocautery, etc. <it is not idea but it is a reality. all originations acs, ama, aorn, ast, and nsaa feel that the assistant should be trained and certified. they assist the surgeon in maintaining the visual field for the surgeon, applying hemostatic agents (clamps, chemical, and electrocautery), cut tissues, ligate vessels, place drains if needed, close the wound and dress. the rnfa, crnfa, cfa, or csa operate under the direction of the attending surgeon. some states have licensure for the cfa and csa. as before, it is a summary and not inclusive of all descriptions.

    the second assistant is basically a third hand. they assist the surgeon and the assistant. job is about the same as the first assistant.

    some places have an anesthesia tech that assists the anesthesiologist or crna. their role typically is to help keep the anesthetist in supplies and in some facilities to assist in induction and extubation.

    not all facilities use the same credentialed staff but all use the rn. there are a few places that use rns for most all the staffing (this trend is dying out because of costs). the places that do use surgical techs are starting to use certified surgical technologists csts more because of their training and education.

    if you want to be a surgical technologist, the diploma programs are equal in time and basics (anatomy, physiology, math, science) as a lpn/lvn program. the associate degree is equal in time to asn/adn general nursing (allows one to sit for rn) and all the prerequisites are also typically the same (a&p, pharm, microbiology etc) while the core classes (ie. nur 211) are different. the wait list for st is usually shorter.

    the route for assisting for the rn to rnfa is about the same time as an associate cst to cfa or csa.

    here is the main difference that usually affects the person’s decision. the rn makes more money. it is usually about 25% more. ie. if a surgical tech makes $15 an hour with 3 years seniority, the nurse will make about $20 an hour with 3 years. (that is not exact but usually very close when doing comparisons). another big difference is a rn can cross train. in other words, they can go from department to department. if they decide they don’t like surgery, they can go to icu, the floor, pre-op, emergency, etc (provided there is an opening). techs are typically limited to surgery, sales rep, central processing. management and education are other options if they continue the associate degree with a bachelor in administration or management. there are many opportunities for sts to change from surgery but they are more limited than that of the rn.

    don’t listen to one person over the other as there are many biased opinions. we all think differently so we will see things different. most everyone on the nursing forums will say to be a nurse and most on the surgical technologist forum will say to be a surg tech. follow your dream but do your own research and decide for yourself as only you know yourself well enough to know which you will like best.

    check with the schools around you and see an advisor who can help you to see what is expected from each program, its cost, and length of time. these links may be of help too.

    nursing-- for peri-operative only --
    this link is from the aorn and is the 2007 salary survey
    for cnor and rnfa

    cst, cfa--
    the certifying body (lists what is required to sit for exam).
    accredited programs for cst and cfa
    csa-- (lists what is required to sit for the exam).

    sorry my post was long but you asked a big question. i hope this helped you!
  5. by   MooCow67
    Well thank you - that was very well detailed. I live in Minnesota by the Mayo Clinic, so our college is top notch when it comes to medical training, since they work hand in hand with them So the program is listed here: and it's accredited with the CAAHEP, so I'd be able to become fully certified afterward I think the CST program sounds more my style than the nursing program for sure.
  6. by   MooCow67
    And ShariDCST, I want to thank you for your PM. I can't find way to reply to it directly, so I thought I'd do it here. It was by the far the most detailed and helpful response I've gotten thus far in my search. Thanks a ton.
  7. by   ShariDCST
    Quote from moocow67
    and sharidcst, i want to thank you for your pm. i can't find way to reply to it directly, so i thought i'd do it here. it was by the far the most detailed and helpful response i've gotten thus far in my search. thanks a ton.
    you're very welcome. (usually there's a "reply" link of some kind at the bottom of pms - but this is fine also!) i'm glad my information was useful, and i also thought ewattsjt's reply was right on the money as well - he covered it all!! any other questions - please don't hesitate to contact me here or through pms....
    good luck! :d
    Last edit by ShariDCST on Jul 11, '08 : Reason: correct misspelling
  8. by   ashley story
    What is one of the cons of becoming a surgical tech?
  9. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from ashley story
    What is one of the cons of becoming a surgical tech?
    Lack of flexibility. Nurses can move around to various specialties. STs are pretty much limited to the OR. Are you considering ST school? You can check out the website for the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) for more info.