What You Should Know Before Enrolling in a Surgical Technology Program
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What You Should Know Before Enrolling in a Surgical Technology Program

This article contains lesser known information regarding the majority of surgical technology programs.

Vocational schools are becoming more popular because of a shorter duration, schedule flexibility, and the ease of obtaining financial aid.  For example, a typical Surgical Technology Progam takes a little more than a year to complete, and an accommodating schedule is not hard to find.  It is an exciting field.  Surgical Technologists are an intrical part of the surgical experience in the operating room.  They are responsible for helping create a sterile environment for the patient, setting up the surgical instruments, and working directly with the surgeon as he or she is performing the surgery.  It truly is fascinating to witness the miracle that is the human body, and experience surgical breakthroughs firsthand.  It is a very important job that requires a specific skill set to be successful. 

Once the decision is made to enroll in a surgical technology program, the next step is to decide which school you want to attend.  Accreditation is key here.  Not all hospitals or surgical centers require that their surgical technologists be certified.  However, obtaining your certification will ensure your ability to work in any surgical facility throughout the nation.  In order to receive your certification, there is a qualifying exam you must pass upon successful graduation from a surgical technology program.  However, a qualification you must possess in order to sit for the exam is graduation from an accredited institution.  Note that not all vocational schools are accredited.  Make an effort to verify this before enrolling. 

Upon contacting a vocational school, you will be asked to come in for a preliminary interview, followed by meetings with financial aid and most likely the program director.  You may or may not qualify for one or more government loans or grants to assist in paying for your education, and the school will offer you options on financing the remaining tuition not covered by such loans or grants.  Financial aid consultants are very helpful, and can customize your student loan options to accommodate your needs.  There is no need to over-extend yourself or take on more than you think you can handle.  They are there to help you, so let them.

Here is the tricky part, the information that you usually do not hear before entering the program.  The typical daytime work schedule for most surgical technologists is 6:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday.  In addition to the usual workweek, you will be required to be on call 24 hours a day/7 days a week, though it will be on a revolving schedule with other surgical technologists at your facility.  The larger facilities are staffed to allow for you to leave work at your normal time.  However, this is not always the case if you are involved in a difficult surgical case.  You cannot just walk away in the middle of the procedure, even if it is 3:00.  Thus, you cannot rely on having a routine work schedule.

Now we come to the part of the profession that attracts a lot of interest ... the pay.  You will hear how surgical technologists working through agencies make up to $35-40/hour.  Naturally, one would assume that playing such an important role in the operating room would earn a hefty paycheck.  Sadly, though it is earned, it is not the norm.  You could make as little as $10 per hour starting out.  It is very frustrating because you not only have to learn to recognize and use all surgical instrumentation and supplies, but you also have to have a general understanding of the various methods of anesthetic administration.  You must learn an encyclopedia of health conditions and diseases, and all surgical procedures associated with these conditions.  By the time you graduation, it will feel as though you know as much as any surgeon. 

Getting that first job out of school is extremely tough.  It is important to do clinical rotations during school at facilities where you would be interested in working.  Learn as much as you can about how that facility operates, and do your best to impress.  It will increase your chances of getting hired on at that facility.  Even if you find that you do not want to stay there long-term, get in at least 2 years before deciding to move on.  Once you have at least 2 years of experience under your belt, you can pretty much write your own ticket.  The point is, do not expect to get rich with this profession. 

Before enrolling a surgical technology program, do your research.  Talk to surgeons, OR directors, OR nurses, and surgical technologists.  When you meet with a program director at any educational institution, prepare a list of questions.  It is your right to receive honest answers.  None of this information is intended as negative.  Different aspects of any job affect people in different ways depending on their particular circumstances.  You are in control of your future.  Make sure you know all of the facts before making such a life-changing decision. 

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Comments (1)

Interesting topic.

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