Surgical Technologist: Who They Are and What They Do

A surgical technologist is a medical professional who assists in surgical procedures by preparing operating rooms, setting up surgical instruments, and assisting surgeons during procedures.

Responsibilities of a surgical technologist include:

  • Sterilizing and preparing surgical instruments
  • Draping the patient and operating room to maintain a sterile environment
  • Passing instruments and supplies to the surgeon during procedures
  • Counting sponges, needles, and instruments before and after surgery
  • Assisting in preparing and moving patients to and from the operating room

Education and certification requirements for surgical technologists typically include:

  • Completing an accredited surgical technology program or apprenticeship
  • Passing the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
  • Maintaining certification by fulfilling continuing education requirements.

It’s worth noting that requirements may vary by state and employer.

Job Duties of a Surgical Technologist

A surgical technologist is an important member of the surgical team who plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of surgical procedures.

Surgical technologists assist surgeons, anesthesiologists, and registered nurses in a variety of tasks, including preparing the operating room, setting up surgical instruments, and providing direct assistance during surgery.

Job duties of a surgical technologist may include:

(1) Preparing the Operating Room

Before each surgery, the surgical technologist must ensure that the operating room is clean, properly equipped, and ready for the procedure. This includes checking equipment and supplies, ensuring that all necessary instruments are available, and preparing the patient for surgery.

(2) Sterilizing Instruments

Surgical technologists are responsible for sterilizing all instruments and equipment used during surgery. This is a critical step in preventing the spread of infection and ensuring patient safety.

(3) Draping Patients

The surgical technologist must also prepare the patient for surgery by draping them in sterile covers to maintain a sterile field. This is essential in reducing the risk of infection during the procedure.

(4) Passing Instruments

During surgery, the surgical technologist is responsible for handing the surgeon the instruments and supplies needed for the procedure.

This requires attention to detail and good hand-eye coordination, as well as a thorough knowledge of surgical instruments and their uses.

(5) Counting Sponges, Needles, and Instruments

To ensure that no foreign objects are left inside the patient after surgery, the surgical technologist must count all sponges, needles, and instruments before and after the procedure.

(6) Assisting with Patient Movement

Surgical technologists may also be responsible for helping to move patients to and from the operating room, as well as positioning them properly on the operating table.

(7) Maintaining a Sterile Field

During the procedure, the surgical technologist must continuously monitor the operating room to ensure that all equipment and instruments remain sterile. Any items that become contaminated must be removed immediately.

(8) Monitoring Equipment

The surgical technologist must also monitor any equipment used during the procedure, such as suction devices, electrosurgical units, and lights, to ensure that they are functioning properly.

In addition to these specific job duties, surgical technologists must also have a strong understanding of anatomy, surgical procedures, and patient care.

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They must be able to follow instructions, work as part of a team, and remain calm under pressure. Overall, the job duties of a surgical technologist require a high level of skill, attention to detail, and a commitment to patient safety.

Education and Certification Requirements of a Surgical Technologist

Education and certification requirements for surgical technologists vary by state and employer, but typically include:

(1) Education

To become a surgical technologist, individuals must complete an accredited surgical technology program or apprenticeship.

These programs usually take one to two years to complete and provide students with hands-on training in a surgical setting, as well as theoretical coursework in anatomy, physiology, and surgical procedures.

(2) Certification

Many states and employers require surgical technologists to be certified by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

To obtain certification, individuals must pass the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam, which tests their knowledge and skills in all areas of surgical technology.

(3) Continuing Education

To maintain their certification, surgical technologists must complete continuing education courses and fulfill other requirements set by the NBSTSA.

These courses help to keep surgical technologists up-to-date on the latest developments in the field and ensure that they are providing the highest level of patient care.

It’s important to note that some states have licensing requirements for surgical technologists, while others do not.

Before entering the field, individuals should research the requirements in their state to ensure that they meet all necessary qualifications.

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Additionally, some employers may have additional requirements, such as a certain number of years of experience or certification in CPR or basic life support.

Challenges and Rewards of the Job

Like any career, being a surgical technologist has its own set of challenges and rewards. Understanding these aspects can help individuals decide if this career is the right fit for them.


(1) Physical Demands

Surgical technologists must be able to stand for long periods of time, move quickly, and lift heavy objects. This can be physically demanding, especially during long procedures.

(2) High Stress Environment

Surgery can be a high-stress environment, and surgical technologists must remain calm and focused even when working under pressure.

(3) Attention to Detail

The role of a surgical technologist requires close attention to detail, as mistakes can have serious consequences for patients.

(4) Exposure to Infectious Diseases

Surgical technologists are at risk of exposure to infectious diseases, and must take precautions to prevent the spread of infections.


(1) Making a Difference

Surgical technologists play an important role in the success of surgical procedures and can make a positive impact on patients’ lives.

(2) Job Security

Demand for surgical technologists is expected to grow in the coming years, making this a secure career choice.

(3) Career Advancement Opportunities

With experience and continuing education, surgical technologists can advance in their careers and take on leadership roles.

(4) Personal Satisfaction

Many surgical technologists find their work to be rewarding, as they are able to use their skills and knowledge to make a difference in the lives of others.

In conclusion, being a surgical technologist can be a challenging but also a highly rewarding career for those who are dedicated to patient care and have the skills and qualities needed for the job.

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