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Surgical Tech Or Rn?? Help!


Specializes in ED. Has 3 years experience.

okay, i know no one can decide this or make this decision but me.. i am torn though and do not know which way to go! i also have to take into consideration the pay and job outlook bc i have two little ones and a husband. the idea of a surgical tech really appeals to me. i was really into nursing until i looked into the surgical tech thing. when i was thinking about being a nurse i knew that i wanted to be in the operating room.. but thinking about that, why shouldnt i just choose surgical tech so i will always be in the operating room?? in my heart i think i want to choose surgical but im just not sure.

just a few questions:

*has anyone ever done this..?

**whats the job like??

***did you ever get to assist in operations??

****whats the pay and job outlook like??

thanks for any input! i am driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to do and enrollment is soon.

btw: if i choose surgical i will be getting an associates degree in this field. would hope to get additional traing and experience to first assist.

I too was really interested in becoming a scub tech until I found out the pay starts at $15.00 /hour. Nordstrom's starts at $10.00/hour for comparison. First assistant jobs are extremely hard to come by. The one M.D. that I know uses them uses people who were Surgeon's in their home country, but for whatever reason are not yet licensed here as a Surgeon.

ann945n, RN

Specializes in Nursing Ed, Ob/GYN, AD, LTC, Rehab. Has 4 years experience.

I have a friend that was a surg tech for 8 years before she became an RN. She loved her job, LOVED it. But she had to leave surg tech because of the wear and tear on her body. She described having to sometimes stand for 8 hours with no break holding a retractor and needing to pee but can't leave. It was simply too much after all those years. Yeah you run around like crazy as an RN but you arent forced into one position for 8 hours. Just a thought.

fromtheseaRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency/Trauma.

i had the same problem, and went for the RN (still in school). if you ever decide you want to take a break from OR, there are so many other avenues you can take if you are a RN, you are never stuck in 1 role. also, after you have your license and some operating room experience and your CNOR certification, you can start working on your first assist certification and then be a RNFA. you can also get your RN with an associates.

this website is a wealth of information:


good luck!

I have another opinion to share.

Say you become a nurse and get to work in the OR, that would be great, but if for some reason you can't be on your feet for long periods of time (arthritis for example) you could change specialties to a clinic for example. But, if you're a surgical tech, you may have to seek out further education to change jobs.

Looks to me like nursing would give you more options.

All else equal, if you want to be in the OR, I'd say go for the scrub tech and then go back for an RN license later if you still want to. As a scrub tech, you'll start training in the OR right away, as opposed to having 2 years of nursing school which is much more focused on bedside care, trying to land an entry-level OR RN job (not necessarily easy) and only then start learning OR work. Getting an RN after being scrub tech would only be benefitial. You'd have skills and confidence, as well as professional connections, to build upon. I imagine it would easier to land an OR RN job if you have scrub tech experience than if you're fresh out of RN school with only a few hours of observation in an OR as a student nurse.

Of course, all else isn't equal. RN starting pay is usually higher than scrub tech starting pay, but assume nothing and research your local market. If you wouldn't mind working in other nursing roles, an RN license would broaden your potential work environments beyond the OR. If you're not really interested in other RN roles, then scrub tech would seem to make more sense. Just more food for thought!

I would go with the RN route. It offers much more opportunity in the future. You can still get an associates and be done in two years. I just got an OR job before graduation in a region where people said it would never happen so it could happen for you as well.

Plus where I work they have Nurse Techs working in the OR while in nursing school. A great way to get your foor in the door and learn a heck of a lot while making some extra cash. Plus you can see if this is really what you want.

Speaking from experience (I finished my surg tech courses last year) I very much prefer the RN track! There are many reasons why I decided NOT to be a surgical tech but the main ones were :

*starting pay- only $12/hour in my region

*no lateral movement- If i needed a change of pace there were no options

*I honestly just felt like I never used my brain. There is little to no problem solving involved which just wasn't a good fit for me.

On the other hand, my best friend works in the OR as a surgical tech and just LOVES her job. I think it takes a very special type of person to work in the OR.

Best of luck to you! :)


Specializes in PeriOperative. Has 11 years experience.

I agree with jjjoy. New RN grads can technically scrub, but they're rarely taught. If you go into OR nursing with 2 years experience as a scrub, you're better prepared for the procedures and the job itself than someone with 15 years of bedside nursing.

I couple of the scrubs I work with are currently in nursing school (and have kiddos at home, so it can be done). They have a much better understanding of anatomy than their classmates because they are exposed to more than just the textbook. Many hospitals also have tuition assistance programs for employees who want to further their education.


Has 7 years experience.

I've been a CST for 5 years now at a big hospital. I scrubbed only open heart for my first 3 years and have since switched to neuro although I scrub a lot of vascular and bigger general stuff as well.

Depending on the programs in your area, there are a lot of advantages to a CST program. The one I went to is an accelerated 1 year program and the techs at our hospital start out at $17. It was a nice introduction to healthcare for me, since at that time I wasn't planning on nursing school. When I did decide to go to nursing school last year (I'm in my 3d semester now) I was surprised at how much my OR experience helped me when it came to anatomy, drugs etc.

Still, the other posters make valid points. If you get bored scrubbing you might be able to switch specialties depending on the size of your OR, but there aren't many other choices if you want to try something else; medical equipment company jobs, central supply and decontam depts spring to mind. Also, though I've had just 1 marathon case (and there were no retractors involved) standing day in and day out, even if they are just 3 hour cases, does take a toll after a few years.

Now for the job outlook. Right now the nurses start at about $8/hr more than techs, but if you read any of the threads you'll see that there aren't a ton of jobs for new grad RNs. When I graduated from tech school 5 years ago, every person in my class had at least 1 job offer, most had 2, some had 3. That has slowly been changing. The last few tech classes saw only half have jobs by graduation and we didn't hire any from this last class when we usually hire 3-6 so I would ask the school how the job outlook for your area is before you enroll.

So I guess it all depends on what you want to do. If you know you want to work in the OR, consider tech school, especially if it's a 1 year program. Then get your certification, work as a scrub and let your facility put you through nursing school. You'll have a much better shot at a nursing job there if you already have experience.

There are more job opportunities for RNs, but if you really would prefer to be a surgical tech, then that is the direction you should take. Up to you.

Well let me ask you this; what is your heart telling you? What do you really want to do ?

I'm a surgical tech myself, i work in the OR in L/D i do most C-sections, i really enjoy what i do, but i also wanted to be a nurse so here i'm in my junior year as a nursing student, if you really want to be an RN just go for it; time will go by so fast you wont even noticed, but let me just warn you its going to be hard, but you could do... just have to put your mind into it. GOOD LUCK...