Surgical technologists work in the operating room, helping to provide a safe, sterile environment and adding to the efficiency of the operating room team. They work under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. They have a variety of tasks including the following:

  1. Setting up the operating room with surgical instruments, equipment, sterile linens, and fluids such as saline (a salt solution) or glucose (a sugar solution)
  2. Assembling, adjusting, and checking non-sterile equipment to ensure it is working properly
  3. Preparing the patient for surgery by washing, shaving, and disinfecting incision sites
  4. Transporting patients to the operating room, positioning them on the table, and covering them with sterile surgical drapes
  5. Observing patients’ vital signs and checking their charts
  6. Helping surgeons put on gloves and gowns
  7. Passing instruments and supplies
  8. Assisting in the retraction of tissues
  9. Cutting sutures and helping count sponges, needles, supplies, and instruments
  10. Operating special equipment such as sterilizers, lights, suction machines, and assisting with diagnostic equipment as required by surgeons
  11. Transferring patients after surgery to the recovery room
  12. Cleaning and restocking the operation room

Work Environment

Most surgical technologists work a regular 40-hour week although they may be on call for emergency situations during weekends and evenings. They work in clean, well-lighted, cool environments but may stand for long periods. They must remain alert during surgeries that may take several hours. They must follow sterile practices to protect patients and themselves from communicable diseases.

Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for surgical technologists are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations in the coming years as the number of surgeries increases. This increase is being driven by the increase in the number of older people in America who are more likely to require medical procedures than other age groups. Technological advances, such as fiber optics and laser technology, also will introduce new surgical procedures.