Surgical Technologist Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of equipment is used in this field?

Of course the type of equipment varies based on which surgery is being performed. One piece of equipment that is used for almost every procedure is the electrosurgery machine to which the sterile electrosurgical pencil (or Bovie) is attached, which is used to stop the bleeding from an artery or vein. Another piece of equipment that is available at nearly every surgery is the suction machine with a sterile suction tip, which allows blood and body fluids to be removed from a wound so the surgeon is better able to view the surgical wound. Aside from those two pieces of equipment, the rest will vary based on the type of procedure. For instance, for orthopedic procedures you may have power saws and drills. For eye procedures, like cataract removal, a microscope and phaco-emulsification machine are necessary. A phaco machine has a tiny probe that the surgeon inserts through a small incision in the cornea to break up and suction out the affected lens.

Who do surgical technologists report to?

The operating room manager is typically a surgical technologist’s direct supervisor. However, during surgical procedures, surgical technologists work under the direct supervision of the surgeon. Surgical techs also work with nurses who often serve in the circulator role.

What are the hours like in this field?

As a surgical technologist, the hours can vary based on the size of hospital which he/she is employed. Larger hospitals with level one trauma typically have two to three shifts available. In smaller rural hospitals there may be fewer surgeries scheduled so they will require a fewer number of surg tech employees. Mid-level sized hospitals typically employ fulltime surgical technologists but may or may not have shifts. Oftentimes these professionals take turns being “on call” and working holidays since emergency surgeries can take place at any time.

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What are the most exciting aspects of this job?

Some people, coined appropriately as adrenaline junkies, are attracted to this profession mainly because they associate surgery with trauma victims and lots of blood. While there are certainly trauma situations, most of what surgical techs deal with is routine and preplanned surgeries.

Many surgical technologists believe the most exciting aspects of the job are the challenges of thinking quickly and determining what a surgeon needs when something does not go as planned. In surgery, equipment can break and a surgical tech needs to determine if it can be fixed at that time or if there’s a back up plan available. Thinking through these types of dilemmas quickly and efficiently is an exciting aspect of this profession.

How many surgeries does a surgical technologist assist with per day?

It is hard to pinpoint an accurate answer since the types of surgeries surgical techs assist with vary so widely from one day to the next. An average count may be five to six surgeries per day. For a surgical tech who mainly focuses on open-heart surgeries, he/she will do only a few in one day. Some surgical techs who help with smaller procedures may do eight or more procedures per day.

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