Why surgical technology is a growing career in health care

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

(ARA) – Today’s health care industry offers a wider variety of positions than ever before. This is in part due to the expanding health care needs of about 78 million aging baby boomers. People who are 65 years or older comprise 12 percent of the population and 35 percent of all hospital stays, according to the Top Ten Reviews website.

Surgical technology can be a rewarding career choice for those looking to enter the health care arena. This option requires a two-year associate of science degree. As more and more of the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, the demand for health care workers will rise. Even in today’s stunted job market, the health care sector showed growth in March 2012 despite fewer overall job gains than in recent months, according to a U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Press Release.

Kat LaRue CST, Surgical Technology Program chair at Brown Mackie College – Greenville offers insight into this career choice.

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“A surgical technologist works as an important part of the operating room (OR) team and participating in surgery is the main focus of this specialty career,” she says. Responsibilities are varied for these professionals. Duties begin with preparing the OR for each surgery. Equipment must be in good working order and sterilized to prevent infection. All appropriate instruments for the specific procedure must be counted and set up. In addition, surgical technologists prepare patients for the operation by washing and disinfecting the incision area and helping the surgical team put on sterile gowns and gloves.

“During the procedure, the surgical technologist makes surgery go as smoothly as possible by counting instruments and supplies to ensure nothing gets left behind in the patient,” says LaRue. “They hand instruments to the surgeon and serve as an extra set of eyes and ears in making sure nothing goes wrong. After the procedure, the surgical technologist does another instrument count, and sometimes transfers the patient to a recovery room.”

Whether joining the profession as a first or second career, surgical technologists take pride in being medical professionals, working with doctors and nurses on behalf of patients. People who are well suited for a career as a surgical technologist tend to have an eye for detail, the ability to think critically and multitask, and have empathy for patients.

Many surgical technologists find employment at hospitals and in-patient facilities, and some work for dental surgeons in a dentist office. “Some travel and take temporary positions in different cities with a six-month or two-year contract,” LaRue says. “The facility pays for lodging for the traveling employee.”

Some states require surgical technologists to pass a certification exam given by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). LaRue has co-authored the updated and newly released Pearson’s Surgical Technology Exam Review. The book is a professional reference volume designed to prepare students who plan to test for certification. It offers a thorough review of course studies, containing relevant topical material and corresponding practice questions. The NBSTSA is working toward a national standard where all states would adopt the exam as mandatory.