Surgical technology is an exciting career in the healthcare industry. Surgical technologists benefit from a shorter post-secondary degree program while still working alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses to perform life-saving procedures on patients of all ages. They can work in relaxed office settings or high-paced, high-stakes operating rooms.

What Is a Surgical Technologist?

Surgical technologists assist a surgeon during operations by preparing the operating room, ensuring the right supplies and equipment are available, preparing the patient for surgery, passing instruments and supplies to the surgeon during the procedure, performing surgical counts before, during and after the incision is closed, and maintaining a sterile environment during the procedure. The surgical tech is present from start to finish. They may transport the patient to the operation room and then hand them off to the recovery team after the procedure.

Surgical technologists are typically skilled in anticipating the needs of the surgeon, monitoring for sterile processes, and active listening. The surgical tech works in coordination with the surgeon, circulating nurse, and anesthesia provider, among others.

Because the surgical tech is present during the entire operation, they must be comfortable with human anatomy, including blood and bodily fluids.

What Does a Surgical Technologist Do?

The surgical technologist has a wide range of responsibilities before, during, and after each procedure. Some of their responsibilities can include:

  • Following the Patient First (AEGER PRIMO) motto as the primary responsibility

  • Maintaining a sterile environment

  • Operating, assembling and maintaining sterile equipment before, during and after surgery

  • Assisting the surgical team in scrubbing and putting on gloves, and surgical gown for surgeon and other staff

  • Getting the patient ready for surgery by positioning them correctly on the table, cleaning the incision site, and draping the patient

  • Offering technical assistance to other members of the team

  • Passing instruments and supplies to the surgeon throughout the procedure

  • Anticipating the needs of the patient and the team

  • Performing other tasks as directed by the surgeon, like holding retractors or cutting sutures

  • Preparing and assisting with the application of dressing and bandages after surgery

  • Handling specimens collected during surgery so they can be analyzed by the lab

  • Cleaning and restocking the operating room after each surgical procedure

  • Maintaining files and records

  • Ordering instruments and supplies

Surgical Tech Specializations

While some surgical technologists work as generalists and assist in a wide variety of common surgical procedures, others choose to specialize in a certain area and become proficient in the surgeries within that specialty. Specialized surgical areas include plastic surgery, cardiology, organ transplantation, oral and facial surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, and orthopedic surgery. In many cases, specialization occurs naturally; a surgical tech who spends five years assisting in an OBGYN practice will naturally become specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. 

Where Surgical Techs Work

Surgical technologists work in hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, doctor's offices, and organ donor centers. Some surgical technologists assist only with in-office procedures like wart removal, mole biopsies, etc. Many surgical technologists cover some overnights, weekends, and holidays, and may be on call to ensure patients who need emergency surgery have a team available.

Surgical Tech Programs

Surgical technologist requirements vary by state and may include a certificate or diploma program, or an associate degree.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Program

When choosing a surgical technology program, it's important to consider all of the schools that might meet your needs and make an informed decision. Factors to consider include:

  • The length of the program

  • The degree or certificate awarded upon completion of the program

  • Tuition and fees

  • Clinical experiences offered

  • Whether the school and program are accredited

  • Graduation and employment rates

  • Student services available upon graduation (resume writing, job seeking, etc.)

  • Satisfaction of current and former students

  • Eligibility requirements

  • School reputation

Surgical Technology at The College of Health Care Professions

The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) offers an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology at the Austin, Houston Northwest and San Antonio North campuses.

During your program, you'll become proficient in aseptic technique, surgical procedures and techniques, anticipation of surgeon needs, identification and usage of surgical instruments, disinfection/decontamination/sterilization, patient preparation, professionalism, and the roles of first scrub, second scrub, and non-sterile surgical technologist.

Just a few of the courses you can expect to take throughout the course of your 80-week program at CHCP are Critical Thinking, Pharmacology, Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Professional Readiness. You'll also complete an externship as a part of your program, allowing you to both observe and practice the skills you learn in a real operating room under the supervision of experienced surgical teams.

Getting Started as a Surgical Technologist

Whether you're a high school student exploring potential career paths or a non-traditional student looking to start a new career later in life, The College of Health Care Professions has a degree or certificate program for you. It's always the right time to find a career that you love, because as they say, "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."

CHCP's Surgical Technology Program will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and clinical experience you need to become a certified surgical technologist and begin your surgical technologist career right in Texas. To take the first step toward your AAS in Surgical Technology, apply online today. Our admissions team will reach out to support you as you embark on this exciting journey!