Surgery Tech: Education Requirements and Career Information
Surgery techs perform many essential, if unglamorous, duties in the operating room. They are trained to prepare the operating room before procedures, prep patients for surgery and assist doctors and nurses during procedures as well as to clean surgical areas following operations. Becoming a surgery tech usually requires training and certification in surgical technology.
Educational Requirements for Surgical Technologists
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has approved over 400 surgical technologist training programs (www.caahep.org). These programs can take from 9-24 months to complete and lead to a diploma, certificate or associate's degree. A high school education or GED is a basic prerequisite for the majority of accredited surgery tech training programs.
Most surgery tech training programs are a combination of classroom study and clinical practice. Coursework typically includes anatomy, microbiology, pharmacology, physiology, ethics and medical terminology.
During the supervised clinical phase of their training, students gain hands-on experience in different surgical practices. They learn procedures in a variety of areas, including infection control, sterilization techniques and the proper handling of contaminated substances or supplies.
Professional certification, which is preferred by many employers, can be gained through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Candidates earn this credential by graduating from a CAAHEP-approved program and passing a national certification exam ( www.nbstsa.org). Certification can also be obtained from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Techs who have not graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited program can earn NCCT credentials by attending a hospital training program or through on-the-job experience ( www.ncctinc.com).
Employment opportunities for surgery techs were expected to increase by 25% between 2008-2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The increase was projected in part due to general population aging and advances in surgical technology (www.bls.gov). Certified techs were expected to find the greatest number of job opportunities.
In 2008, the median annual salary for surgery techs was $38,740. The BLS reported that techs working in specialty practices earned the highest salaries at $40,880, while those working in dental practices only earned $36,380 a year. Techs employed by physicians and surgeons tended to earn more than techs who worked for hospitals or surgical clinics.
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