Surgical Technology

What Surgical Technologists Do*

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors and nurses during surgeries.

Duties

Surgical technologists typically do the following:

  • Prepare operating rooms for surgery
  • Sterilize equipment and make sure that there are adequate supplies for surgery
  • Prepare patients for surgery, such as washing and disinfecting incision sites
  • Help surgeons and nurses during surgery by passing them instruments and other sterile supplies

Surgical technologists work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers. For more information, see the profiles on physicians and surgeons or registered nurses.

Before an operation, surgical technologists prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment. They also prepare patients for surgery by washing and disinfecting incision sites, positioning patients on the operating table, and covering patients with sterile drapes. Surgical technologists prepare sterile solutions used in surgery and check that all surgical equipment is working properly. They help the surgical team put on sterile gowns and gloves.

During an operation, surgical technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and first assistants. Technologists also may prepare, care for, and dispose of specimens taken for laboratory analysis. In addition, they apply dressings. After an operation, surgical technologists may help transfer patients to recovery rooms and may clean and restock operating rooms.

Pay*

The median annual wage of surgical technologists was $39,920 in May 2010. The median annual wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,100, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,330.

Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest number of surgical technologists in May 2010 were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $41,210
Offices of physicians 41,030
General medical and surgical hospitals; state, local, and private 39,600
Offices of dentists 36,480

Most surgical technologists work full time. Surgical technologists employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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