Central Service Tech vs. Surgical Tech


Hello all,

I am contemplating doing either of these programs. I was wondering if anyone has any experience working as one or working with one. Or know someone who works as one. I think that the school "jazzed up" the description, so, I would like to hear from experience what they actually do and the "day in the life" as one.

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Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,325 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.

What are you interested in? A surgical tech is part of the operating team, handing instruments to the surgeon, and in some places functioning as either a second assistant or a first assistant if they have additional training. Must be meticulous in sterile technique and know what the instruments are and what they are used for. Also must be able to anticipate the needs of the surgeon/assistant. Has some limited patient interaction- if not scrubbed at the time the patient arrives in the OR, may help with getting warm blankets and helping position.

The central service tech, if it's what I'm thinking it is, works in the sterile processing department and would be responsible for sorting and cleaning instruments, assembling instrument sets, and sterilizing the sets. Basically no patient interaction.

Not sure what the pay scale for either one is, so that might also be something you'd want to consider. I do know that where I work, STs max out right around where the RNs start. I don't agree with that, but it is what it is.


58 Posts

Thank you so much for the information. I looked into seeing what jobs are available in my area and their descriptions. I've come across the same descriptions and the surg tech does the cst position "no patient contact". I just don't want to cheat myself. The CST classes are for 4 months and ST is a full yr. I dont want to go for CST and I need more theory; as well as, I dont want to go for ST and didn't need spend so much money to do the same job.:idea:


1 Post

I am a Central Sterile Technician (currently in nursing school) and I definitely recommend you rethink becoming one. Although I am at a smaller hospital and thus make less money than one could make at a larger one (up to 18 an hour I think), the job description will basically be the same anywhere. The other person was correct--cleaning and reprocessing instruments. That equates to sweating in a plastic suit while you wash the instruments, hurting your back and your body while you load and unload heavy instruments, and become bored out of your mind after you learn all of the instruments in 6 months! Don't get me wrong, if you don't like interaction with patients or others than it could be a great job, but it is really labor intensive. Education wise, you also don't go very in depth regarding anatomy and basic biology. I have my BS as well, and the course merely skims the surface.....The plus is that if you go to a larger hospital you may have the possibility for advancement:)

A surgical technician is also exactly what the other person described. However, most courses now are like a year and a half---and at our hospital they only make up to what a new nurse starts out as...So if you can go to school for 2 years (and learn to scrub in later...)to become an RN and make more money, why not just do that? However, if you still are torn between surgical tech and CSs tech, surgical tech is the way to go! I know quite a few and even go to school with some, and the knowledge you learn is on-hands and that can't be replaced if and when you want to further your education! GOOD LUCK WITH EVERYTHING!!

RN Zeke

415 Posts

Specializes in Postpartum, Antepartum, Psych., SDS, OR.

I am a surgical technologist..took pretty much the same courses as RN...Worked and traveled as CST/ST. Never getting the same respect as RN's I went back to school and am RN now. also worked in sterile processing, washing, racking and steralizing instruments...steam, gas, specialized washers for instruments such as scopes...Not in the OR now, but sure do miss it and maybe will get the opportunity to return. Moving heavy instruments, equipment, and stretchers is a constant. Thinking on your feet and moving like an assembly line worker is a must...