“Patients don’t know who we are or what we do, but they trust everyone in the room to take care of them,” said Stephanie Allen, surgical technology instructor at Herzing University. “I take pride in knowing that a patient trusts me to do my job well and to be their advocate.”
You’ve probably heard of them before — medical surgical technologists, sometimes called operating room technicians, med surg techs, surgical techs, surgical assistants, or scrub techs — these healthcare heroes have many names.
They’re the healthcare professionals in and out of the operating room (OR) all day long, the hard workers who prep the OR to ensure patient safety, and those patient individuals who act as a surgeon’s “third hand.” Let's learn more, from their role to the average salary for surgical tech professionals, plus everything in between.
Discovering the Role of a Med Surg Tech in Healthcare
What is the role of a med surg tech?
There’s a good chance you already know who surgical technicians (STs) are — you just may not realize it. Have you ever thought about who cleans and sterilizes surgical equipment? Or, have you wondered who preps patients for surgery or who gets them to recovery? You’re thinking of STs.
A certified surgical technologist plays an integral role at healthcare facilities. Unlike most other healthcare careers, med surg techs are involved in every step of surgical procedures — preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative.
Preop, or before surgery, med surg techs are responsible for all the prep work for both the patient and the operating room team. As the first person to enter the OR, med surg techs have the task of creating and maintaining the room’s sterile field to help make surgery safer for everyone. They also gather the necessary equipment and tools to sterilize, count, and carefully arrange them for the surgeon.
As for surgical patient preparation, surgical technologists prepare and get them ready by shaving their incision spot, positioning the patient on the operating table, disinfecting their incision site, and draping the patient. Once the OR and the patient have been fully prepped, surgery can begin.
“When it comes to surgery, the ST is an expert,” said Allen. “We’re expected to know everything—the anatomy and physiology of the body, how the procedure is to be performed, and multiple different variations of the procedure.”
The most time-consuming role of surgical techs comes intraoperatively. No matter what type of surgery it is, surgical technologists assist and become the “third hand” to the lead surgeon and first assistant. There to provide a helping hand, med surg techs offer sterile surgical tools to the surgeon as requested, prepare medications and administer to patient, plus keep track of surgical instruments used during the procedure.
“The most two important skills for any ST to demonstrate is the ability to remain calm under pressure,” said Allen. “And to anticipate the surgeon’s needs before he or she even knows what’s next.”
Once the procedure is complete, OR techs suture the patient’s incision and apply disinfected dressing to the area. These skilled healthcare professionals then count the tools used during the surgery, dispose of waste, and get the patient to the recovery ward.
Med surg techs are a crucial member of a surgical team. As such, they must have the physical ability to be on their feet for long periods at a time, as well as the mental capacity to cope with the hectic demand of the operating room.
“Working in the operating room can be challenging,” Allen shared. “Learn from your mistakes and work harder the next time.”
Perks of being an OR tech
Life as an OR tech is a career where you know you make a positive impact in countless lives. From patients to surgeons and other hospital workers, med surg techs offer support to everyone they touch throughout the healthcare journey.
“You’ll come across amazing success stories about how a patient recovered due to a procedure you helped make possible,” said surgical tech, Anthony Mareno, to Rasmussen University. “You’ll feel as though you were a part of the team that changed a patient’s life forever, and that’s because you were!”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the surgical assisting profession is expected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029. Part of this job outlook growth is due to aging baby boomers. Another reason is due to advanced technologies that make surgeries safer. This demand also ensures that the average surgical tech salary will be competitive. Plus, as a traveler you'll have the opportunity to earn a higher hourly wage that your perm staff counterparts.
No day is the same
Every day as a med surg tech brings changes, from new patients to new robotic surgical equipment and surgeries to learn. A surgical tech wrote: “My job is never mundane. Each day brings a new patient and unique challenges to the table.”
Part of a healthcare team
As a surgical technician, you work alongside surgeons, registered nurses, anesthesiologists, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team in hospital or outpatient care centers to ensure patient health during surgical operations.
Less intense education requirements
Unlike a surgeon who requires years of additional education after college to perform a surgical procedure, med surg technicians require an associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate in surgical technology from a surgical technology program that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Depending on the facility, OR techs need six months to two years of experience in operating rooms before they can hit the road as a professional traveler.
Flexible work schedule
After time as a professional surgical tech, you have the power to choose your ideal schedule. As a healthcare traveler, you also have the freedom to decide where your next assignment will take you.
“Have fun and be open to learning every day,” said Allen. “This is such a great career with so many growth opportunities. Never give up and strive for more.”
As the demand and average annual salary for experienced surgical techs continues to climb, Fusion Medical Staffing removes common barriers for healthcare travelers to promote a faster turnaround time with job application submissions and healthcare traveler placements to get you where you’re supposed to be in less time.