What's the difference between a surgical nurse and surg. tech?

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:confused: a couple of us not yet student nurses were talking about it. I mean, what's the difference job-wise and pay? Thanks! Heather:D


189 Posts



738 Posts

From what I understand, The surgical tech is trained to work in the OR and assist with surgical procedures. Such as handing the doc instruments, cleaning them, assembling the sterile field and depending on which school they go to and what degree they get, some can staple or suture. They also use the sterilization equipment and make sure that the count is correct at all times. They also help to transfer and position the patients and clean the surgical suite when the surgery is completed. They do some documentation as well.

As far as I know, when I looked into the program they are stictly trained for the OR and stay there. The pay in my area of PA is about $12-14/ hour to start and the certificate takes 2 years and requires classroom work as well as hands on in clinical which consists of several different OR rotations: OB, Ortho, gen surgery etc. They also take a certification exam at the end of their schooling.

Nurses are trained to work in several different fields and are not limited to the OR and make better money.

I don't want to write all the differences between the 2 here, it would take too long, but this is a general idea.



165 Posts

That is all right but where I live a Surg. TEch makes 30k a year and a SUrg Nurse makes 42k.


567 Posts

Boy Gator, that's a lot of schooling for $12-14 dollars an hour! And it seems like an awful lot of responsibility. So, the surg. nurse is making a lot more than the tech, but what do they do differently? Heather


2,438 Posts

A surgery nurse GENERALLY circulates instead of scrubbing. The majority of hospitals have gone to hiring surg techs to scrub and using RNs to circulate. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the circulator must be a nurse.



261 Posts

Well I would say tha the biggest difference is that one is a NURSE which means she can do anything an nurse in any other area can do and the other can only work in the surgery area.... We have a program in our school and there is alot less science and it is 3 semisters not 4 that our ADN is and they are certified not lisenced (spelling). That is the difference that I can see off the top of my head



171 Posts

To clarify a bit further here;

A Surgical Tech (ST, or if certified, CST) is an instrument assistant during surgery. Scrub techs assist RN's in planning and preparing the OR for a surgical case. They prepare a back table of instrumentation and set up the mayo stand providing the surgeon and his assistant with the appropriate intrumentation/supplies for the case. They are responsible for maintaining the sterillity of the surgical field before and during the procedure, keeping track of countables, and applying a dressing to the surgical site. All of this is done by a scrub tech after he/she 'scrubs' hence the misnomer "scrub nurse".

A surgical nurse is a Registered Nurse, cabable of both scrubbing and circulating in surgery. The RN plans and prepares an OR for surgery, assesses and provides nursing care pre-op and intra-op for patients. an RN is an advocate for patients at a time when they are most vulnerable and unable to advocate for themselves.

In the northeast, a scrub tech is a graduate of a 1 year program designed to teach the basics in aseptic technique, surgical procedures, A&P, types of instrumentation, and handling of instruments.

In most states the circulator must be an RN, though RN's are quite capable of scrubbing and circulating.

cna on her way

134 Posts

The Surg Tech program here is a one year diploma class (in NC), the average starting pay is somewhere around $12-$13 per hour. Nurses usually start out at $17 and above.

Specializes in OR,ER,med/surg,SCU.

Hi, just thought I would add a little more. The circulating RN can do both roles. The circulating nurse must be an RN, in our facilty. When we circulate we are not "sterile" Our job is to set up the equipment and know how to run it(scrubbed in personal such as md or scrub are sterile, they cannot touch anything but the sterile field.) We interview the patient, pour meds onto the field, position the patients on the table, do the prep, shave, foley ect.. We do the counts with the scrub tech, do the paper work, assist anesthesia with the intibation...ect. We are responsible to ensure the scrub tech has the needed instruments set up. During the case we throw any needed supplies onto the fields for the doctor, monitor the patients safty(down to the temperature in the room) We assist with drawing labs, running blood, and are in charge of packaging and getting specimens to the lab. We asist with the dressings. At the end of the case we assist with extibation, and escort the patient to the recovery room with anesthesia and give a report to the recieving RN. We put away our equipment while the tech is clearing off their table. Housekeeping mops and wipes the rooms down.

Hope this helped chrissy OR RN

Specializes in LTC/Peds/ICU/PACU/CDI.

...are a dying breed there! licensed practical nurses (lpns) can & do scrub in on various cases in the or. most have been there for years & once retired, are replaced by surg tech because it's cheaper to pay them. the rationale is that both are educated in a one year's time; so hospitals don't want to pay lpns more because they're licensed nurses & rather pay less for the techs. i have also seen where some acute hospitals have completely done away with lpns as scrub nurses, forced their titles to be changed, or forced them out of their lpn positions into scrub tech positions.

on the floors, for example, lpns are being replaced by multi-skilled techs (mst) &/or they're being forced to work as mst...being denied the title of nurse.

sad isn't it...especially with the nursing shortage. just thought i'd add that ~ do carry on.




11 Posts

Thanks to all for posting. This was a very helpful thread.

Can someone elaborate on a "circulator" and their duties; and I assume this must be an RN position similar/same as Surgical nurse?!

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