Surgical Technicians go by a lot of names: Surgical Technologists, Operating Room Technicians, Surgical Technicians, or my favorite, Scrubs. Scrubs are part of operating room teams which help surgeons, anesthesiologists, and registered nurses do their jobs. When you see a surgeon on TV ask for a scalpel, the person handing it to him would be the surgical technician. But, handing over tools when asked isn’t all of the gig. Surgical technicians also have to prepare patients for surgery (read: washing, shaving, disinfecting), wheel patients into the operating room, and cover them with sterile surgical drapes. Most importantly, they help monitor vital signs.
Even though surgical technicians are working right beside the surgeons, they are paid a lot less. The median annual income for 2008 was only $38,740, with the highest salaries over $54,300. That’s definitely enough to make a living, and if you love saving lives and being in on the action, this might be the career for you. Dentist offices pay the worst, so if money is an issue, look for general or surgical hospitals and especially specialty hospitals for the big bucks. Technologists can specialize, which increases pay and employment possibilities, in areas like neurosurgery and cardiovascular surgery. Some may go on to become nurse practitioners who also work in surgery.
Training programs are often offered by community colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals and the military, usually lasting 9-24 months. Those who did well in health, biology, chemistry and math classes in high school will have an easier time of the coursework since much of it is in anatomy, physiology, microbiology and other biological disciplines. Chemistry comes in handy for drug interactions, and learning medical terms is vital for fast communication over the surgical table. Other lessons require less thinking and more cleaning, since proper sterilization procedures must be followed.
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