When one thinks of surgery, images of doctors and nurses working side by side are often brought to mind. There is one actor, however, that is lesser known but still plays a crucial role in the surgery process: that of the surgical technician.
The role of the surgical technician is a relatively new one, emerging largely out of the need for additional personnel to help with surgical procedures during war time. As many female nurses were often not allowed to assist doctor’s on the battlefield, male operating room technicians were trained to take their place in many of these situations. The role of the operating room technician, sometimes called a “scrub”, was to prepare the surgical instruments by making sure they were clean and sterilized, helping with some minor surgical processes such as suturing, and assisting the physicians with tools and the care of patients as directed. Most of these operating room technicians were trained only briefly prior to working in the operating room, and much of their experience was gained on the job.
Today, however, the role of the surgical technologist is not limited only to males. Furthermore, training to become a surgical technologist has advanced and professional associations have also emerged to certify training and qualifications. In 1968 the first such association was created, known as the “Association of Operating Room Technicians.” In 1973, the organization formally changed their name to the “Association of Surgical Technologists” which remains one of the most important associations for those working in this field.
Starting in 1974, formal accreditation of surgical technology coursework came into existence. Initially this coursework was in the form of a two year associate’s degree in surgical technology and assisting. Today, however, there is also a formal certification exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technologists and Surgical Assistants. If you choose to pursue being formally certified, you will need to update your certification every four years through reexamination. Although many surgical technologists today receive generalized training and certification, there is some specialized training available for those interested in very advanced fields such as neurosurgery. Those that receive this specialized training are likely to find positions that are better paying as well.
Over the past fifty years or so, the field of surgical technology has undergone many changes and is now an important occupation for men and women alike. It is an ideal occupation for those interested in working in a surgical environment without studying to become a physician or nurse.
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