CAREER GUIDE FOR SURGICAL TECHNOLOGISTS

SOC Code: 29-2055

Pay Band(s): 2      (Salary Structure)

Standard Occupational Description: Assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. May help set up operating room, prepare and transport patients for surgery, adjust lights and equipment, pass instruments and other supplies to surgeons and surgeon's assistants, hold retractors, cut sutures, and help count sponges, needles, supplies, and instruments.

Surgical Technologist positions in the Commonwealth are assigned to the following Roles in the Direct Service Career Group:

Direct Service Associate II

While Surgical Technologist positions within the Commonwealth are all located within the Direct Service Career Group, individuals may want to pursue other opportunities within the Commonwealth depending upon individual training, education, knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests.  Direct Service Associate III and IV positions offer advancement opportunities in related fields, including respiratory therapy, nursing, dental, emergency medical, pharmacy, and public health services.  

Other Career Group(s) that may be of interest are:

Nursing Services

Health Care Technology

Health Care Compliance

SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE, ABILITIES AND TASKS

(Technical and Functional Expertise)

Skills
Note: The technical and functional skills listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Surgical Technologists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the skills listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

  1. Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  2. Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  3. Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  4. Using mathematics to solve problems.
  5. Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  6. Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem solving and decision-making.

Knowledge

Note: The technical and functional knowledge statements listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Surgical Technologists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the knowledge listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Knowledge of:

  1. The information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
  2. Plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

Abilities

Note: The technical and functional abilities listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Surgical Technologists commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the abilities listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Ability to:

  1. Listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  2. Arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  3. Keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.

Tasks

Note:  The following is a list of sample tasks typically performed by Surgical Technologists.  Employees in this occupation will not necessarily perform all of the tasks listed. 

  1. Clean and restock the operating room, placing equipment and supplies and arranging instruments according to instruction.
  2. Count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after operation.
  3. Hand instruments and supplies to surgeons and surgeons' assistants, hold retractors and cut sutures, and perform other tasks as directed by surgeon during operation.
  4. Maintain supply of fluids, such as plasma, saline, blood and glucose, for use during operations.
  5. Monitor and continually assess operating room conditions, including patient and surgical team needs.
  6. Observe patients' vital signs to assess physical condition.
  7. Operate, assemble, adjust, or monitor sterilizers, lights, suction machines, and diagnostic equipment to ensure proper operation.
  8. Position patients on the operating table and cover them with sterile surgical drapes to prevent exposure.
  9. Provide technical assistance to surgeons, surgical nurses and anesthesiologists.
  10. Scrub arms and hands and assist the surgical team to scrub and put on gloves, masks, and surgical clothing.

INTERESTED?

Like people, occupations have traits or characteristics.  These characteristics give important clues about the nature of the work and work environment, and give you an opportunity to match your own personal interests to a specific occupation.  When you choose a job in an occupation that matches your own interests you have taken an important step in planning a successful and rewarding career.

Surgical Technologists perform work that is:

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

LICENSURE, REGISTRATION, OR CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

Certification is generally required or strongly preferred for Surgical Technologist positions in state government.  According to the Department of Labor:

Surgical technologists receive their training in formal programs offered by community and junior colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals, and the military. In 2002, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) recognized 361 accredited programs. High school graduation normally is required for admission. Programs last 9 to 24 months and lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

Programs provide classroom education and supervised clinical experience. Students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, professional ethics, and medical terminology. Other studies cover the care and safety of patients during surgery, sterile techniques, and surgical procedures. Students also learn to sterilize instruments; prevent and control infection; and handle special drugs, solutions, supplies, and equipment.

Most employers prefer to hire certified technologists. Technologists may obtain voluntary professional certification from the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist by graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited program and passing a national certification examination. They may then use the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. Continuing education or reexamination is required to maintain certification, which must be renewed every 4 years.

Certification may also be obtained from the National Center for Competency Testing. To qualify to take the exam, candidates follow one of three paths: complete an accredited training program, undergo a 2-year hospital on-the-job training program, or acquire seven years of experience working in the field. After passing the exam, individuals may use the designation Tech in Surgery-Certified, TS-C (NCCT). This certification may be renewed every 5 years through either continuing education or reexamination.

For additional information on a career as a surgical technologist and a list of CAAHEP-accredited programs, contact:

Association of Surgical Technologists, 7108-C South Alton Way, Centennial, CO 80112. Internet: http://www.ast.org

For information on becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist, contact:

Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist, 128 S. Tejon St., Suite 301, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Internet: http://www.lcc-st.org

For information on becoming a Tech in Surgery-Certified, contact:

National Center for Competency Testing, 7007 College Blvd., Suite 250, Overland Park, KS 66211.

EDUCATIONAL, TRAINING, AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES 

High school graduation normally is required for admission to an accredited certification program offered by a community college, hospital, vocational school, university, or military organization.

The Department of Labor states that Technologists advance by specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open heart surgery. They also may work as circulating technologists. A circulating technologist is the “unsterile” member of the surgical team who prepares patients; helps with anesthesia; obtains and opens packages for the “sterile” persons to remove the sterile contents during the procedure; interviews the patient before surgery; keeps a written account of the surgical procedure; and answers the surgeon's questions about the patient during the surgery.

With additional training, some technologists advance to first assistants, who help with retracting, sponging, suturing, cauterizing bleeders, and closing and treating wounds. Some surgical technologists manage central supply departments in hospitals, or take positions with insurance companies, sterile supply services, and operating equipment firms.

COMMONWEALTH COMPETENCIES

Competencies are a set of identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly and positively impact the success of employees and the organization. Competencies can be observed and measured.  When consistently demonstrated, competencies make employees particularly effective in their work.  Competencies help lay out a road map to career success.  You can use the Commonwealth Competencies to help improve your individual performance by adopting behaviors that make high performing employees successful in their jobs. In this way, you can use the Commonwealth Competencies for your further professional development.

The Commonwealth Competencies are:

  1. Technical and Functional Expertise
  2. Understanding the Business     
  3. Achieving Results
  4. Serving the Customer
  5. Teamwork
  6. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  7. Leadership and Personal Effectiveness

The above competencies may be applied to employees throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They can be rank-ordered by agencies and hiring managers to represent the needs of a specific job.  The rank ordering will change depending upon the occupation, an organization's priorities, the actual job requirements, and the supervisor's preferences. 

Career success is both about what you do (applying your technical knowledge, skills, and ability) and how you do it (the consistent behaviors you demonstrate and choose to use) while interacting and communicating with others.  Hopefully, by studying the Commonwealth competencies, identifying your developmental opportunities, and working to refine your own competence, you can take charge of your career!

For additional information about the Commonwealth Competencies go to: http://jobs.state.va.us/cc_planningctr.htm.  For the competencies, we first list the competencies and then define each.  Finally, we list competency indicators; to describe what successful performance looks like. 

COMMONWEALTH CAREER PATH

Career opportunities in the Commonwealth are not limited to moving “up” to the next highest role and pay band, changing positions, or to becoming a supervisor.  That's because most roles describe a broad group of occupationally related positions that perform a range of work that requires increased knowledge and skills.  For that reason, Commonwealth roles describe the career paths within the same or higher-level role for the same or different Career Group.  The broad salary range and the Commonwealth's pay practices provide flexibility in recognizing career development and advancement. (Salary Structure)

For example:

PAY BAND

ROLES

1

Direct Service Associate I

2

Direct Service Associate II

3

Direct Service Associate III

4

Direct Service Associate IV

Sample Career Path 

Direct Service Associate I

The Direct Service Associate I role provides career tracks for assistants (such as public health, day care, respiratory therapy) and hospital attendants performing entry-level to journey-level responsibilities requiring little prior training or experience and the work is well defined.

Direct Service Associate II

The Direct Service Associate II role provides career tracks for health care support technicians, such as nursing assistants, physical/occupational therapist aide, pharmacy assistants, psychiatric workers, medication assistants, and others who perform health care support responsibilities ranging from entry-level to journey-level. This role also provides career tracks for supervisors of hospital attendants. Duties are varied, requiring either knowledge in a variety of areas or specialized knowledge to perform tasks in assigned specialty areas.

Direct Service Associate III

The Direct Service Associate III role provides career tracks for health care support specialists that are either service delivery experts or supervisors. As service delivery experts, employees provide or lead specialized services that support the work of interdisciplinary treatment teams, licensed clinical staff, and professional counselors. This role also provides career tracks for human rights advocates. As supervisors, employees supervise other Direct Service Workers, develop staff schedules, evaluate staff performance, serve as members of interdisciplinary treatment teams, make minor changes in treatment and program plans, write reports, make oral presentations, and review client records for appropriate documentation.

Direct Service Associate IV

The Direct Service Associate IV role provides career tracks for dental laboratory technicians who perform duties ranging from advanced level to supervisory. The work requires specialized expertise in the fabrication and repair of a variety of dental applications used by dentists or dental students for their patients.

ADDITIONAL OCCUPATIONAL INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: 

O*NET (Occupational Information Network)

http://online.onetcenter.org/

Occupational Outlook Handbook (Department of Labor)

http://stats.bls.gov/oco/

Virginia Employment Commission 

http://www.alex.vec.state.va.us/

Association of Surgical Technologists

http://www.ast.org

Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist

http://www.lcc-st.org

Career One Stop

http://www.careeronestop.org/

Virginia Career Resource Network

http://www.vacrn.net/