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How to become a surgical tech?

Share your journey & guide aspiring surgical techs on their path.

Note: Given the growing interest in surgical technicians, we're inviting our experienced professionals to share their knowledge.

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Doc’s Answer

While many medical careers require a specific degree to join the field, Surgical Technologists have three options for their level of education: a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

For those interested in joining the field as quickly as possible, certificates and diplomas are typically earned in as little as one year, thanks to coursework that focuses specifically on surgical technology without courses on general knowledge or electives. These programs are often completed through technical or vocational schools. Associate degrees typically take students between 18 and 24 months to complete. Unlike with certificates and diplomas, an associate degree in surgical technology will include coursework in general science, English, and math. These are often completed at community colleges, but can also be found at technical and vocational schools and even some universities.

No matter what program you choose, make sure it is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), which meet industry standards to allow you to pursue certifications after graduating. If you want to be eligible to take the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. Some states require CST certification for the employment of surgical technologists, but even if your state doesn’t, you’ll likely come across employers who will expect you to be a CST. Surgical technologist programs require candidates to hold a high school diploma or GED at minimum. Some schools might require prerequisite courses ranging from biology to English, and it’s likely that you’ll need to complete a course in CPR as well. Because your education also includes hands-on experience with patients, many schools require students to complete a criminal background check before beginning the program.

While surgical technologists often innately possess skills that help them succeed in their careers, aspiring professionals can cultivate essential traits as they complete their education and training. Study the following vital skills surgical technologists need to develop:
• Organization: Surgical techs rely on their organizational skills to properly sterilize operating rooms and set out the right equipment. They also keep operating rooms organized during procedures so surgeons can focus on their work.
• Attention to detail: Attention to detail allows surgical techs to prevent errors during operations. For example, they use observational skills to notice activation and warning skills on equipment.
• Teamwork: Surgical techs are an integral part of surgical teams, making it crucial for them to be able to work with others. They often provide updates to surgeons and receive instructions from anesthesiologists.
• Multitasking: Surgical techs are often responsible for several tasks at once, meaning they rely on multitasking skills to maintain a high quality of care. They can prioritize tasks and minimize the impact of their potentially distracting environment.
• Communication: Besides communicating with other health care professionals, surgical techs update patients and their families. They also are proficient in written communication, as they update patient records and record inventory.
Emotional intelligence: Surgical techs demonstrate empathy to comfort their patients and provide optimal care. They also possess composure that allows them to thrive in potentially stressful and fast-paced environments.
• Manual dexterity: Surgical techs employ manual dexterity to manipulate instruments precisely while wearing restrictive items like gloves and masks.
• Physical stamina: Besides standing throughout their shifts, surgical techs might have to manipulate unconscious patients with or without assistive devices.
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Scholarstica’s Answer

How to Become a Surgical Technologist?

First, you'll need to earn a GED or high school diploma, as it's compulsory for most surgical technologist programs. Opting for demanding science courses such as anatomy and biology in your high school would be best. It'll allow you to prepare for your surgical technologist course.

Once you have your high school diploma, you can use the following steps to become a surgical technologist.

1. Apply to a Surgical Technologist Certificate, Diploma or Degree Program
To enter the profession, surgical techs typically need a diploma or certificate from a surgical technology program. According to surgical technologists polled by O*Net, 41% of respondents said that an associate's degree was required to work as a surgical technologist, and 23% claimed that a post-secondary certificate was sufficient. Some states regulate surgical techs, but most don't. Surgical technologists typically need a certificate or an associate's degree. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. A small number of states regulate surgical technologists.

Accreditation of the Surgical Technology Program
Remember that not all surgical technology programs and associate degree courses are accredited by a reputable and recognized agency.

It would be best to look for a program accredited by ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools) or CAAHEP (Allied Health Education Programs). You can visit the ABHES or CAAHEP online directories for accredited surgical tech programs.

2. Get Certified (If necessary)
The next step in your journey to becoming a surgical technologist is to get certified. Although many states do not regulate the certification, it'll make your resume stand out and reflect your dedication and commitment.

So, getting a surgical technologist certification will make it easier for you to find a job. You can prepare for your certification exam through NCCT (National Center for Competency Testing) or NBSTSA (National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting).

3. Find a Job
Once you have completed your education as a surgical technologist, you can begin your job search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals are the largest employers of surgical techs. They employ 71 percent of surgical technologists.
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear CVOH,

Embarking on a journey to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) can be a significant first step for those who aspire to be Registered Nurses (RN) or even fire fighters.

As a CNA, you'll acquire practical experience in a healthcare environment, honing vital nursing skills and gaining insights into the daily duties of an RN. This experience will enhance your appeal when applying to nursing schools.

Here are some key aspects of a CNA role:

CNAs operate under the guidance of RNs and other healthcare practitioners, delivering fundamental care to patients in diverse settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Typical duties involve monitoring vital signs, aiding with personal care (such as bathing and dressing), assisting with mobility, and offering emotional support to patients.

CNA training programs, which can be found at vocational schools, community colleges, and healthcare facilities, generally last from several weeks to a few months. The course content includes anatomy, physiology, infection control, and patient care techniques. After completing a training program, you need to pass a state-specific certification exam to become a CNA. Certification requirements differ by state but usually involve passing a written test and a skills demonstration.

Choosing a CNA role can positively impact your career progression in several ways:

Practical experience: As a CNA, you'll have the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from your training in real-life situations, helping you to enhance vital nursing skills and understand patient care more deeply.

Professional networking: Working alongside RNs, doctors, and other healthcare professionals can help you forge crucial professional relationships that may benefit your future career.

Career exploration: A CNA role can offer insights into various healthcare settings and nursing specialties, enabling you to make informed decisions about your future career path as an RN or fire fighter.

Resume enhancement: Having CNA experience on your resume can make you a more appealing candidate when applying to nursing schools or fire fighter academies, as it demonstrates your dedication to the field and your understanding of patient care principles.

Income: While working as a CNA, you'll earn an income that can help support you financially while you pursue higher education or other career objectives.

Meeting prerequisites for nursing school: Some nursing schools may require applicants to have completed a certain number of hours as a CNA before applying for their RN program. Be sure to check with specific schools for their prerequisites.

Credit transfer: Some CNA training programs offer credits that can be transferred to nursing school or other healthcare-related degree programs, reducing the time needed to complete your education.

In conclusion, becoming a CNA is a fantastic opportunity for those interested in pursuing careers as RNs or fire fighters. It offers valuable experience, professional networking, and resume enhancement, while also providing an income and potentially meeting prerequisites for further education.

May God bless you!
James Constantine.