The Incredible Work of a Surgical Technologist


Surgical technologists are not as well-known as doctors & nurses, but if you’ve ever had surgery — or watched an episode of any TV medical drama — then you already know how important the role of the Surgical Technologist is.⠀

  • They play the integral role of assisting surgeons during surgical procedures.
  • They make the operating room (OR) efficient while ensuring patient safety.
  • They epitomize the definition of “teamwork”.
  • They are the backbone of the Operating Room.⠀
  • They went through intense training to enter the field.
  • And the field they are now in is projected to keep growing.


Career Demand = Job Security

Advancements in medical technology have increased the number of surgeries being performed, creating a demand for more surgical technicians. Surgical technology has set the pace in the industry, as employment is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018-2028 – much faster than the average for all occupations.*


What exactly does a Surgical Technologist do?

Surgical Technologists (also called scrub techs, surg techs, surgical techs, or operating room technicians) are part of a surgical team. These professionals assist in surgical operations and work alongside surgeons and registered nurses. They are key team members who prepare operating rooms for surgery by ensuring a sterile surgical environment, arranging equipment, preparing surgical instruments, and handing those instruments to surgeons during an operation.

“Surgical Technologists have a particular level of skills and knowledge that surgeons depend on,” explains Thomas Silvera (2017 graduate of Swedish Institute’s Surgical Technologist program). “As a surgical tech, you don’t just assume the surgeon will know something; you need to be the one to anticipate – because you are one of the most valuable people and resources to that surgeon conducting the surgery.”


What training do you need to become a Surgical Technologist?

Improvements in surgical technology that began in the late ’60s led to the formalization of the role of Surgical Technologists in the ’70s. As more & more institutions began designing and developing surgical technology programs, the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) began working to promote excellence in the surgical technology profession. In 1974, an accreditation body was created to ensure quality education for all surgical technicians, and today, all aspiring surgical technologists are required to take the national certification examination designed by the National Board of Surgical Technologists & Surgical Assistants (NBSTSA) to qualify.⠀


What can you expect from Swedish Institute’s Surgical Technologist program?

Extensive hands-on training in our on-site simulation labs and off-site clinical rotations makes our Surgical Technologist program stand out in providing real-world experience that adequately prepares you to enter the operating room and work side-by-side with surgeons in various perioperative settings.

You will learn anatomy and physiology, aseptic techniques, infection control, and general and specialized surgical procedures. You will then practice what you learned in your lecture classes by performing simulated operating room exercises in our on-site labs. In your final quarter, you will go to hospitals and/or surgery centers to gain exposure to operating rooms and real procedures with real patients.

When students begin their scrubbing experience, they’re so excited,” explains Juan Pilarte, CST, A.S., Lead Lab Instructor/Clinical Specialist at Swedish Institute. “They start off in CSPD [the Central Sterile Processing Department of the hospital], which allows them to get familiar with the instrumentation sets of that facility, and gives them hands-on experience that we may not necessarily have here in the lab.

“They come back excited, letting us know exactly what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, what they’ve touched, and how different it all is than what they had initially thought,” explains Shannon Ashmeal, CST, A.S., Director for Surgical Technology at Swedish Institute. “It just creates a real thrill and wow-factor for their particular interest in the surgical technology realm.”


In a graduate’s own words

At 40 years old, Thomas Silvera decided he needed a career he could be passionate about and one that would help him provide for his family. He began researching the best programs in the field of surgical technology and quickly realized that Swedish Institute would be the perfect fit for him.

“I’ll admit I was a bit overwhelmed at first, because the materials and concepts can be complex,” explains Thomas. “But the professors at Swedish were extremely proficient in breaking it all down so that we [the students] could understand everything. They were by our side every step of the way to help us succeed. The program is extremely well-rounded, and gives students the blueprint to set the foundation for their future.”

Thomas graduated in April 2017 and, within a month, was hired in the surgical center operating room at New York City Surgical Associates. “The Career Services department was instrumental in helping me find the job and giving me the opportunity. I was offered the job after two interviews and a two-week training in the OR. I began working not only in general surgeries but also in vascular surgeries, which broadened my scope even further. It’s more than I ever imagined.”


Unsung Heroes

In 1984, the very first ever National Surgical Technologists Week was held​ to honor all surgical technologists. Every year since then, the third week of September has been designated to honor, recognize, and show appreciation to all individuals who play this vital role in the OR.

National Surgical Technologists Week allows us to have our career placed a little more at the forefront of everyone’s minds and ideas because we really are the unsung heroes inside the OR,” explains Shannon. “We’re the people that most patients don’t even know exist, but we’re right there making sure that we are the advocate and that we’re putting our patients first.

Thomas posts inspirational and educational content about the surgical technology field on his Instagram page, aptly titled @TheSurgicalTechnologist. Today, his Instagram page has grown to over 11,200 followers. It has sparked such interest from organizations and companies that he has partnered with them as their ambassadors in the surgical technology field.

“I’m proud to call myself a Surgical Technologist and I have Swedish Institute to thank for helping me get there,” Thomas says humbly. “It’s important to remember it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you start – it’s where you finish that matters.”

So please join us in giving a huge shout-out to our surgical technologists, students, alums, and faculty here at Swedish Institute!

If you’re looking for a fast-paced career in the ever-expanding medical industry, contact us to visit the College and learn more about the Surgical Technologist Program.

 * According to May 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.