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6 Things Never to do as a Surgical Tech

Sterilized surgical instruments are prepared for use.

Surgical Technicians play a key role on the operating room team. Working with doctors, nurses, and other staff, they have an important set of responsibilities. Like any career, some actions are a deal-breaker. Here are some things that you shouldn’t do as a surgical technician:

1. Don’t Forget the Details

Working as a surgical tech requires attention to detail. From overseeing the thorough cleaning of the operating room, to making sure all instruments are properly sterilized, the surgical technician helps prevent infections. Going into surgery, surgical technicians must be able to identify all surgical instruments that may be required during the procedure. Generally, the surgical technician verifies that all sterilization procedures are followed correctly, and that after the procedure instruments are maintained properly.

2. Don’t Snooze on the Job

Many surgical procedures take a long time, due to the precision and complexity of the operation. The technician is present for the entire procedure, during which they must be alert and attentive. If a surgeon requests an instrument, it must be available. Expect to be attentive for five or six hour procedures.

3. Don’t Forget What Comes Next

Part of surgical tech training involves the surgical technician learning to anticipate what the surgeon will do next. Ideally, a surgical tech will pick up the gist of procedures over time and be able to recall which instruments are going to be required.

A surgical technician surveys medical instruments.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Prep Patients

Depictions of surgeries on TV and Film will sometimes include meaningful or tense shots of the patient’s body being prepped for the procedure. Before a complicated abdominal surgery, the area of incision is shaved and then sterilized, after which the screen cuts to the surgeon conducting the medical staff in the room like an orchestra. The funny thing about these popular depictions is that it’s the surgical technician who is playing an important role, just outside of the spotlight. They’re the ones who shaved the patient’s area of incision, and subsequently swabbed it to make sure it’s sterilized, and they’ve assembled the surgeon’s array of instruments.

All techniques, down to the way gloves are put on, must be aseptic.

5. Don’t Get Complacent With Your Career

Surgical technicians have a number of professional options that they can pursue that will land them more responsibilities and a better paycheck. A lead technician, for example, might be in charge of training new techs and supervising the technician team. Additional training and certifications allow a surgical technician to eventually become a surgical assistant. Surgical assistants play a more active role in surgical procedures and often demand a higher salary.

6. Don’t Expect a Tiny Paycheck

The median income of a surgical technologist in 2012 was $41,790 per year, or $20.09 per hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field is expected to grow by 30% by 2022, which will result in thousands of new positions. When most people think of careers in allied health, they think of medical assisting, dental hygiene, or imaging (sonography or x-ray tech). Not as many people are familiar with the surgical tech career. This can ultimately benefit those who go into the field as there will be less competition compared to other careers.

11 thoughts on “6 Things Never to do as a Surgical Tech

  • What Do Surgeons Want from Their Surgical Techs? says:

    […] Attention to detail is a very important part of this job. This is true of many jobs in healthcare, but it’s especially true for surgical techs because they are key players in the defense against germs. From overseeing the thorough cleaning of the operating room to making sure all instruments are prope…. […]


    Can a surgical tech run the operating board.. (charge nurse) without having a

  • Ru says:

    As a licensed RN, I would never allow a ST to prep my patient for surgery and neither would a surgeon.

    • Matthew Mcfatter says:

      I have with the surgeon draping the pt. She wouldn’t start the procedure or time out till I was back and g&g cause that’s how they did it wherever she’s from cause nurses dont learn sterility teqniuqe, but your right. I think that its the nurses job to prep

    • Jennifer says:

      Can I ask for further reasoning behind your theory?

      If certain persons would never allow us to prep, how is it they seemingly trust us to establish and maintain a sterile field, put together and prep implants that will stay in the human body, assemble various grafts for reconstruction and plastic surgeries, etc cetera, but wouldn’t allow us to prep a patient? Seems curious.
      Some colleges, such as the one I earned my degree from, teaches the surgical techs how to prep as part of their course work. I am certified and have an associates degree in surgical technology. Believe me when I say that more than half of the surgeons that I work with don’t mind if we prep, utilizing the proper technique of course, and drape the patient. This is true especially if the surgeons wants fast turnovers. An ideal surgical case involves the patient prepped and draped before the surgeon even enters the room. This allows them to scrub right in, do the timeout, and make incision. Now with that said, not all surgical techs become certified or take extra schooling. I do not know if in these types of situations, those techs are being taught that particular skill. This has been my experience over the last few years.

    • PG says:

      Are you crazy? Techs get educated on prepping unlike RNs!

    • Jennifer Smith says:

      I think someones high on the horse there. Don’t forget techs, that many OR nurses have an associates degree in nursing while many surg techs also have an associates degree in surgical technology but for some reason we as tech are said to be the lowest on the totem pole. Let me tell you that in the many years that I have been a surg tech, lets see who is standing and physically working all day, while an OR nurse mostly sits and charts and when that is done, they play on their phones. Dont for one second think that a nurse is ever better than you. We get to provide more patient care hands on in the OR than any OR nurse ever will. Yea..I am a little sore at nurses. Tired of many of their “better than thou” complexes Ask any nurse who has worked on a floor and then become an OR nurse. A huge world of difference in duties.

    • Devon says:

      Prepping is part of our training and in our Surgical Technology textbooks… wow!!!

    • Kimberly Turner says:

      Who the heck r I and where did u get your degree. I am a very surgical tech and my surgeons and nurses trust me to prep everyone, we were trained to prep. I don’t know what u r talking about!!!

      • Kimberly Turner says:

        Who the heck are you and where did u get your degree? I am certified scrub and I am perfectly capable of prepping my patient. My surgeons and my nurses trust me. We are trained to prep.

    • Eura says:

      I’ve been a certified tech for 20 years. And I have prep patients just as with due diligence as a RN would.

      Your comment is absurd and unprofessional.

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