What’s the difference between a surgical technician and a surgical technologist?

There are opportunities in the healthcare industry that don’t require an advanced degree. These bring you close to the action and enable you to achieve your career goals without difficulty.

So, have you ever considered working in an operating room?

Surgical Technician vs. Surgical Technologist

If you have, you may want to know what professions or careers to take to achieve such an objective. We’ve identified two examples to discuss.

They include surgical assistants and surgical technologists. While these are great career options, what are these about, and how do they compare?

In seeking to provide answers, we take a look at what each career represents before delving into the different aspects of how each works.

Critical comparisons give you an idea of what profession to choose.

Who’s a Surgical Assistant?

A surgical assistant is an advanced allied health practitioner who’s a direct aid to the surgeon and handles tasks like monitoring a patient’s vital signs to ensure they usually respond and inspecting electronic equipment.

Such continuous and competent assistance is provided under the direct supervision of a surgeon. Surgical assistants offer pre and post-operative care to patients.

They’re also known by names like first assistants, assistants at surgery, or surgeon assistants.

Who’s a Surgical Technologist?

This is another allied health professional that serves as part of the unit delivering surgical care.

Based on the nature of their roles, surgical technologists work in similar settings with surgical assistants. A surgical technologist is trained to maintain the sterile field, thus eliminating the risk of infection during surgery.

These professionals help prepare the operating room before surgery and work with the surgeon by providing the tools needed during the operation.

In terms of hierarchy, surgical technologists report to head registered nurses.

Surgical First Assistant vs. Surgical Technologist

Understanding the similarities and differences between surgical assistants and surgical technologists requires looking at various critical aspects of both professions.

Areas to be looked at include work settings or environments, job descriptions & duties, and training & education.

More points of comparison include salaries, certification requirements, and growth opportunities. Let’s discuss each of these points to provide a more detailed understanding of what they represent.

i. Work Settings or Environments

When it comes to the work settings for both surgical assistants and surgical technologists, lots of similarities abound.

These professionals get to work in ambulatory surgery centers, hospitals, or physician offices. Such responsibilities are usually physically demanding. However, there may be variations in the hours committed.

A lot of stamina is needed as you’ll spend a significant part of the procedure standing. Some situations may require working on-call for evenings or weekends.

Plus, surgical assistants and technologists work together with other professionals.

ii. Job Descriptions & Duties

The duties or responsibilities of surgical assistants differ from those of surgical technologists in many respects.

For surgical assistants, essential roles include cutting tissue, treating minor wounds, applying pressure to wounds, closing up & dressing wounds, and inserting tubes.

Additional duties include holding incisions open while surgeons operate, selecting the proper surgical tools needed, and monitoring & maintaining normal blood flow & clotting.

Surgical assistants handle such machines to maintain clean surgical targets and prepare patients for surgery.

On the other hand, surgical technologists carry out all kinds of roles that include carrying out an inventory of surgical supplies, preparing operating rooms for surgery, setting up surgical equipment in the operating room, and sterilizing surgical tools and equipment.

Surgical technologists also assist surgeons by passing instruments during surgical procedures. Patients are also transported to and from surgery.

Surgical technologists are responsible for maintaining a sterile environment for surgery and helping monitor a patient’s condition.

Surgical equipment must be tested during setup and monitored by surgical technologists. These actions contribute to making surgical procedures go on smoothly.

iii. Training & Education

Training to become a surgical assistant requires attending an accredited program that lasts a period of 10 to 22 months.

Here, you’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in science or an associate’s degree in any allied health field. About three years of operating room experience is also needed.

Training for surgical assistants covers critical courses like surgical complications, anesthesia methods & agents, surgical anatomy, microbiology, and ethical & legal considerations.

Training for surgical technologists spans nine months to 2 years of study. At the end of the training, you’re issued a diploma, a certificate of completion, or an associate’s degree.

Coursework covers several critical topics like sterile technique, physiology, anesthesia techniques, and surgical pharmacology.

Anatomy and surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies are more topics covered. There may also be coverage of courses like biomechanics and surgical robotics.

iv. Salaries

Although these two allied health careers aren’t lengthy or expensive, they generally have attractive salaries. The median annual wage for surgical assistants is around $53,600.

With experience, this amount increases significantly.

For surgical technologists, the median annual salary is $46,310, while experience boosts such earnings to around $67,000 per year.

Comparing salaries, it’s evident that surgical assistants receive slightly higher pay than surgical technologists. This is due to more responsibilities handled and the length of training.

v. Certification Requirements

Both surgical assistants and surgical technologists will need one form of certification or the other.

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) certifies surgical assistants and technologists.

Surgical assistants can earn further certifications through the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA).

vi. Opportunities for Growth

Anyone choosing a career does so with a focus on the growth prospects offered. Both surgical assisting and surgical tech provide opportunities for career advancement.

By working with other professionals like nurses, physicians, and patients, you gain the experience to pursue further study.

Such might include applying to degree programs, getting on-the-job training, or even learning the ropes to become surgical first assistants.

The points discussed above highlight the similarities and differences between surgical assistants and technologists. With the information provided, making a choice shouldn’t prove difficult.

Career advancement opportunities abound for both careers.