Can You or Can’t You?
If you’re looking to join a medical field with a job growth forecast that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites as “fast as average,” you might want to consider a surgical technologist program. Also known by titles such as surgical technicians and operating room assistants, these professionals play a critical role within the healthcare industry. They work alongside surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other operating room (OR) staff to perform important duties before, during, and after surgery.Online surgical tech program
Quick Answer: No.
With online options for education becoming increasingly popular, many wonder if they can learn to become a surgical tech solely from their own computer. But these professionals are required to complete in-person training. Students just starting out will need to attend classes on campus and participate in supervised clinical experience. If the flexibility of online programs is what you’re after, you might be able to find physical courses that take place in the evening or on weekends.
However, surgical tech programs online do exist under special circumstances. If you’ve already completed an accredited certificate or diploma program and currently hold certification as a surgical technologist (CST), you can advance to an associate degree entirely online. If your previous program was unaccredited or you received training on the job, other programs can help you earn your associate’s and become eligible to take the CST exam.
Why Isn’t There Online Surgical Tech Training?
From sterilizing equipment to preparing patients for surgery, the duties of a surgical tech are incredibly hands-on. For this reason, online courses won’t prepare you to properly or safely perform the day-to-day responsibilities.
Is On-the-Job Training an Option?
While surgical techs typically need a certificate or associate degree, some employers may offer on-the-job training to those with high school diplomas or GEDs. However, the more common path is typically to earn your Certified Surgical Technologist credential, from which you’ll need to graduate from an accredited program.
Why Accreditation Matters
Accreditation is important. It confirms that your program meets the highest level of education standards set out for the field. The school you choose should be approved by either the Commission of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.
Completing an accredited program is also a requirement for anyone looking to become a Certified Surgical Technologist. Regulated by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), the CST demonstrates your knowledge and commitment to quality care. The American College of Surgeons supports the certification of all surgical technologists and highly recommends that employers consider certification status when hiring.
What’s more, though certification isn’t required nationwide, it is in some states. As of 2020, these include Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Other states, like Pennsylvania, are currently proposing legislation that would make certification mandatory—also making accreditation essential.
What Surgical Techs Do
Surgical techs provide a number of important services within medical facilities. These might include:
- Sterilizing, testing, and organizing instruments
- Setting up the operating room
- Preparing patients for surgery
- Transporting patients to the OR
- Passing instruments to surgeons and nurses
- Handling patient specimens
- Cleaning and restocking the OR after surgery
Surgical Technologist vs. Surgical Technician
In most cases, the terms surgical technologist and surgical technician are used interchangeably. It usually comes down to the preference of the medical facility where you work. You’ll likely see educational programs with both titles, and either should prepare you to pursue the same kinds of jobs.
Another term you may hear is surgical assistant, which is slightly different than a technologist. While assistants might perform many of the same duties as technologists, they have additional responsibilities when it comes to treating patients. They might help the medical team with more hands-on duties such as suturing, suctioning, or stopping a patient’s bleeding.
Surgical Tech Program Requirements
All surgical tech programs fall into 1 of 3 categories: certificate, diploma, or associate degree. To enter a program, you’ll need to have a high school diploma or GED. You may need to undergo a background check and, since you’re working in the healthcare field, provide documentation of all necessary immunizations. Many programs will also require you to have CPR certification.
What you’ll study
In a surgical tech program, you’ll learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, professional ethics, and medical terminology. Some of the areas of study may include: