Surgical technicians, sometimes referred to as operating room technicians, surgical technologists or simply as "scrubs," are health care techs who assist surgeons, registered nurses, anesthesiologists and other operating room personnel during surgical procedures. You don't need a state license to work as a scrub tech, but some states regulate surgical tech practice and require certification. Certification by an independent, non-governmental credentialing organization can also make you more attractive to employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Different certifying organizations offer different credentials and have different requirements for those credentials. The two primary certifying organizations for surgical scrub techs are the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, which offers the Certified Surgical Technologist credential, and National Center for Competency Testing, which offers the Tech in Surgery-Certified. The Association of Surgical Technologists advocates certification through the NBSTSA as a national standard for scrubs.
Certification is a process of verifying your knowledge against core competencies within your field. Credentialing organizations maintain minimum eligibility standards that include a certain level of education. If you seek credentials through the NCCT you need at least a high school diploma and formal training through a U.S. Department of Education recognized surgical technologist program. The NBSTSA requires you to graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Course work typically includes studies in anatomy, biology and medical terminology in addition to supervised clinical experience.
You might be able to substitute your work experience or military background for the formal education requirement. The NBSTSA accepts graduates of surgical tech training programs offered by the military even if they were not CAAHEP accredited, while the NCCT accepts at least seven years validated surgical work experience as an operating room technician in lieu of formal education.
Once you've met the minimum standards, you must take and pass a credentialing examination before you can be certified. These exams cover the skills and core body of knowledge required for competent entry-level surgical scrub techs. The tests include such topics as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, infection control, surgical instruments, surgical environment and operating room procedures.
- National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting: CST Examinations
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Surgical Technologists Do
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Surgical Technologist
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook
- Mayo Clinic: Surgical Technology
- Texas State Technical College: Surgical Technology
- National Center for Competency Testing: Certification Information
- Association of Surgical Technologists: Model Legislation
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