On the Job
Surgical technologists prepare for and assist with surgical procedures.
Surgery is a very common medical practice. It is estimated that nearly 43 million inpatient surgeries take place each year. This doesn't account for same-day surgeries, which are commonly referred to as outpatient procedures. As common as surgery is, it is treated very seriously. The environment is very controlled, with surgical items set up in a pre-arranged order. Everything must be kept sterile, and patients - no matter what procedure they are there for - must be prepared for the surgery. The people responsible for all of this are surgical technologists.Surgical technologists help with operations. They work under the supervision of surgeons and nurses. They are also called scrubs and surgical or operating room technicians.
Before surgery, technologists help set up the operating room. They wash and sterilize instruments. They place sterile linens and solutions. They set up, adjust, and check non-sterile equipment to be sure it works properly. Technologists also prepare patients for surgery. They transport patients to the operating room. They help position patients on the table and cover them with surgical "drapes." They also observe patients' vital signs. In addition, technologists help the surgical team scrub and put on gloves, gowns, and masks.
During surgery, technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and their assistants. They hold retractors (instruments that hold back the edges of a wound) or cut sutures (stitches). They maintain supplies of fluid, such as blood or saline. Technologists may operate other equipment, such as lights or suction machines. They may also help apply dressings to patients' incisions. In addition, they help count sponges, needles, and instruments. Technologists prepare and care for specimens taken for lab analysis.
After surgery, technologists help transfer patients to the recovery room. Then they clean and restock the operating room for the next procedure.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after surgery.
- Pass instruments and other supplies to surgeons and assistants. Hold retractors and cut sutures.
- Help surgical team scrub and put on gloves, gowns, and masks.
- Prepare patients for surgery.
- Transport patients to operating room. Help position patients on the table.
- Operate equipment, such as lights or suction machines.
- Wash and sterilize instruments.
- Help prepare, care for, and dispose of specimens taken for lab analysis.
- Clean and restock the operating room.
- Help apply dressings.
- Observe patients' vital signs.
- Assemble, adjust, and check non-sterile equipment to ensure it works properly.
- Monitor operating room conditions, and patient and surgical team needs.
- Maintain supplies of fluids, such as blood, plasma, or saline.
- Maintain records of surgical procedures.
- Help set up the operating room with surgical instruments and equipment. Gather sterile linens and solutions.
- Help transfer patients to the recovery room.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Teach others.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Handle and move objects.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Develop and build teams.
- Process information.
- Coach others.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social contact. They work closely with patients and medical staff.
- Are greatly responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Are responsible for work outcomes.
- Communicate with coworkers and patients daily by telephone or in person.
- Work in a group or as part of a team.
- Sometimes are placed in conflict situations in which patients might be unpleasant or angry
- Always work indoors.
- Always wear protective gloves, masks, and gowns during surgery. Protective attire protects both patients and technologists from disease.
- Are exposed to diseases and infections on a daily basis.
- Always wear specialized protective attire in the operating room.
- Are often exposed to contaminants, such as blood.
- Are often exposed to hazardous conditions.
- Are exposed to radiation on a weekly basis.
- Are often exposed to hazardous equipment in the operating room.
- Are often exposed to sounds and noise levels that are distracting and uncomfortable.
- Work very near patients and doctors. They often work within inches of other people.
- Nearly always wear a special uniform or lab coat.
- Must be very exact or highly accurate in performing the job. Errors could seriously endanger patients' health.
- Sometimes must repeat the same physical activities.
- Make decisions on a weekly basis that strongly impact patients. They consult doctors for most decisions.
- Are usually able to set their tasks for the day without consulting with a supervisor. This is because they do many of the same tasks with each patient.
- Often must meet strict deadlines, such as having the operating room ready on time.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- May work part time or full time, but most work 40 hours a week.
- May be on call or work nights, weekends, or holidays on a rotating basis.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Stand for long periods of time.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Bend or twist their body.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.