Surgical Technology as a Career

Description of the Profession

Surgical technologists are integral members of the surgical team who work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses, and other surgical personnel in delivering patient care and assuming appropriate responsibilities before, during, and after surgery. Scrub, circulating, and second assisting surgical technologists have primary responsibility for maintaining the sterile field, being constantly vigilant that all members of the team adhere to aseptic technique to ensure surgical patient safety within the confines of their role.

It is recognized that not all surgical technology practitioners fill the roles of circulator and second assistant. It is imperative, however, that the surgical technology student be educated in all aspects of surgical technology, identified by the following duties and the curriculum content selection.

Role of the Certified Surgical Technologist

Before the operation, the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) prepares the operating room (OR) by supplying it with the appropriate supplies and instruments. Other preoperative duties include adjusting and testing equipment, accounting for sponges, needles, and instruments, preparing the patient for surgery, and helping to connect surgical equipment and monitoring devices. The CST, usually the first member of the OR team to "scrub" and put on gown and gloves, prepares the sterile setup for the appropriate procedure and assists other members of the team with gowning and gloving.

During the operation, CSTs have primary responsibility for maintaining the sterile field. In order that surgery may proceed smoothly, CSTs anticipate the needs of surgeons, passing instruments and providing sterile items in an efficient manner. CST sponge or suction the operative site to maintain visibility, prepare suture material, account for sponges, needles, and instruments, dispense appropriate fluids and drugs, and prepare specimens for subsequent microbial or pathological analysis.

After the operation, CSTs are responsible for accounting for sponges, needles, and instruments, applying dressings, post- instrument/case care, patient care in preparation for transport, and preparing the OR for the next case.

CSTs may also function in the nonsterile role of circulator. This can involve keeping a written account of the surgical procedure, assisting the anesthesiologist, helping account for sponges, needles, and instruments before, during, and after surgery. With additional specialized education and training, the CST may function as the surgical first assistant.

Working Conditions

CSTs work in clean, brightly lit, relatively quiet, cool environments. At times they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials. Most of their duties require standing, sometimes for a number of hours, and it is imperative that their attention be focused closely on the task at hand. Most surgery is performed during the day, but many hospitals and surgical centers require 24-hour coverage. A 40-hour week is common, although most are required to periodically be "on call" or available to work on short notice in case of emergency.

Personal Characteristics

The ability to perform under pressure in stressful and emergency situations is a quality essential to CSTs. A stable temperament, a strong sense of responsibility, considerable patience, and concern for order are required. Manual dexterity and physical stamina are vital. They must be able to work quickly, but accurately, and must be oriented to detail, yet able to integrate a number of activities according to priority. They must be keenly sensitive to the needs of the patient as well as to the needs of other members of the surgical team. Individuals who practice this profession have a strong desire to help others and make a valuable contribution to society.

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