Surgical Assistant

The surgical assistant, also known as a surgical technician or surgical technologist is a professional who is also called a scrub or an operating room technician; they will receive a surgical assistant salary commensurate with his or her experience. Surgical assisting is a highly skilled profession which pays well and requires a great deal of responsibility from the team member.

He or she will function under the direct supervision of the surgeon, registered nurse or another member of the surgical team. The surgical assistant or surgical technician is a skilled worker in the allied health care team.

Jobs in surgical assisting pay quite well, with the average salary being about $32,000 per year as a graduate student.

The Job of a Surgical Assistant

Prior to a sterile operating room procedure, the surgical assistant or surgical technologist will assist in preparation of the operating room by placing the equipment, the drapes, and the surgical implements in the room. In addition, they will be responsible for any and all sterile solutions that are used in the room.

Sterile equipment as well as non-sterile must be assembled and checked to ensure that it will be properly working. They must also prepare the patient who is to have surgery. In many cases, they will wash, shave, and often disinfect the site of the incision for the patient. Transportation of the patient to the operation site as well as transferring them to the operating table and positioning of the patient is the responsibility of the surgical team. The patient is then covered with sterile drapes, as well as warm blankets when appropriate at which point the interaction with the patient is momentarily completed and the surgical assistant will turn his or her attention to the physician or other members of the surgical team.

They will then help the surgical team to gown and glove and return their attention to the patient. They will, during the surgical procedure, observe all of the pertinent vital signs of the patient, as well as keeping watch on the charting procedures.

Once the surgery has begun, they will hand instruments, as well as other supplies which must remain sterile to the surgeon or other surgical assistants. They may cut suturing, help to keep count of the needles, supplies, sponges and other equipment which is in use during the surgery. They will pass different equipment into the surgical field, as well as to help to prep the specimens which may be taken for laboratory analysis during the surgery.

The other duties may be to help to apply various dressings, suction, retraction, and even lights or other equipment during and after the surgical procedure has taken place.

Job Requirements

They will require training that is above and beyond what they might require as a scrub nurse. They may act in the role of surgical assistant in several ways. There are scrubs or sterile surgical assistants, or they may function as a roving assistant who is not sterile and is not in direct contact with the patient during the surgical procedure.


They will work in a very clean and very well lit area that is cool and comfortable. They must be able to stand on their feet for a very long time span as well as to stay alert and oriented to small details during the procedure, which may be lengthy in nature. There are times when they can be exposed to odors and views that are not entirely pleasant. They may also come into contact with disease processes that can be communicable.

Holidays and weekend work may be required of the surgical assistant and in many cases they will be on-call for emergencies on these days.

Training and Education

The training programs may be from one year to four years, leading to a diploma, a certificate, or to a degree such as an Associate degree or a Bachelor’s degree.

The United States alone offers more than 400 such programs for the training and advancement of surgical assistants. These programs are typically accredited.

Prerequisites to the program are high school diploma or a GED or general education diploma.

Job Projection

The job is expected to grow as the health care field grows. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care field will continue to grow for several years and they can expect to find employment in their career field given the current shortage of most medical professions.

According to the BLS, they held nearly 100,000 jobs. More than seventy percent of those positions were in hospitals. Others were in the general practice of a surgeon or physician, or the dentist who did outpatient surgery on a regular basis. Some are held by surgeons who maintain their own surgical team for specialty things such as transplants of heart or liver. sterile processing technician certification

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