Surgical technologists are not as well known as doctors and nurses, but if you’ve ever had surgery, or watched a single episode of Grey’s Anatomy or any other TV medical drama, you’ve seen surgical techs at work and know how important of a role they play in the operating room.
So what exactly is a surgical tech, and how does someone break into this field? Here to tell you in his own words is Thomas Silvera, a 2017 graduate from the Surgical Technology program at Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences in New York City.
Finding Out About Surgical Technology
“Choosing Surgical Technology as a career path wasn’t something I always planned on doing,” explains Thomas. “I managed health clubs for more than 15 years, but it became apparent that the fitness industry was becoming very saturated, so I decided to make a career change. I started to look for something that was steady and would allow me to provide for my family, but also something that I was interested in.”
In 2002, Thomas found out that his mother needed open heart surgery to replace her Mitral Valve. He began researching her condition and the surgery to gain a better understanding of what the operation would entail and what they could expect post-surgery. This experience opened his eyes to the medical field of surgical technology.
“In my research, what I enjoyed the most were the videos of actual surgery procedures,” explains Thomas. “I was impressed by how every little detail was scrutinized and followed in order to make sure the surgery was a success. I eventually learned about Surgical Technology and the many avenues that specialty opened, and I decided to pursue it. I wanted a scrub life.”
Thomas researched the best programs in the surgical technology field and quickly realized that the perfect fit for him was Swedish Institute. “Becoming a Surgical Technologist would help me break into the surgical field, while earning a college degree simultaneously.” So in 2015 he enrolled in Swedish Institute’s Surgical Technology program.
“I’ll admit I was a bit overwhelmed at first,” Thomas says. “The field of surgical technology encompasses so much more than pushing instruments. I had to learn so many different medical procedures and topics such as pharmacology, anatomy microbiology and more. It’s safe to say that I was intimidated.”
Thomas explains that although the material and concepts of surgical technology can be complex, the professors at Swedish Institute are extremely proficient in breaking it all down so the students understand everything.
“My professors were amazing at keeping me grounded and focused,” says Thomas. “They allowed me to work one-on-one with them so I could gain the knowledge that was needed, and they steered me in the right path.” Thomas says that the program is extremely well-rounded, and the faculty and staff of Swedish Institute – from the professors right down to the advisers in Career Services – is by their students’ side every step of the way to help them succeed. “Swedish Institute gives its students the blueprint to set the foundation for their future.”
Thomas credits Swedish Institute’s externship program as the highlight of his academic time, as it allowed him the opportunity to experience being inside an actual hospital operating room even before graduating. He completed his clinical externship at St. Barnabas, Woodhall and Bellevue Hospitals in Manhattan, where he was able to apply what he had learned in the classroom to the real world.
“I remember my first day at the hospital site, I was so nervous I earned the nickname Shaky” Thomas recalls with a laugh. “I know it’s quite hilarious but, I can honestly tell you [by the end I was] no longer nervous because I had the supreme guidance of the clinical instructors. The guidance that they provide you will leave you with a lasting impression and knowledge like no other.”
Thomas graduated in the spring of 2017 and within a few months was offered a position at esteemed New York City Surgical Associates, which allowed him the opportunity to work not only in general surgeries but also vascular surgeries, which broadened his scope even further. He credits the Career Services department at Swedish as being instrumental in keeping him informed of job openings and opportunities and helping him get in the door at NYC Surgical Associates and launching his career.
“I was thrilled over the opportunity and thankful to the Career Services department at Swedish for helping me find the job,” he said humbly. “I’m proud to call myself a surgical technologist and I have Swedish Institute to thank for helping me get there,” Thomas said 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.”
Thomas says in conclusion:
“For anyone thinking about becoming a Surgical Technologist, Swedish Institute is the right choice. They will not give up on you. They’ll let you know that it’s going to be a tough road, but it is so worth it in the end. They’ll provide you with the tools for you to absorb as much as you can on your journey as a Surgical Technologist. I know for me, I was able to leave Swedish Institute as a graduate not only with confidence as a Certified Surgical Technologist, but with confidence within myself. They believed in me. I am where I am today because of their guidance, care and support which propelled me to continue on my academic growth.”
Job Security and Career Outlook
According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 7% from 2019-2029, which is much faster than the average for many other occupations.
Surgical technologists (also called scrub techs, surgical tech or operating room technicians) work in an exciting medical environment as part of a surgical team. They work in hospital operating rooms or surgical centers, working alongside surgeons and registered nurses to assist in surgical operations. They are key performers 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.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced career in the ever-expanding medical industry, then becoming a certified surgical technologist may be the perfect career choice for you. Click here to learn more about how you can enroll in our next class start.