Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is intended to help answer questions about Surgical Technology.

What are the duties of a surgical technologist?

Surgical Technologist Essential Functions

Do I need any special skills to be a surgical technologist?

The ability to perform under pressure in stressful and emergency situations is a quality essential to the surgical technologist. A stable temperament, a strong sense of responsibility, accountability, considerable patience, and concern for order are required. Manual dexterity, physical stamina, and emotional well–being are vital. They must be able to work quickly, but accurately, and must have attention to detail, yet able to integrate a number of activities according to priority. They must be keenly sensitive to the needs of the patient as well as to the needs of the members of the surgical team.

How long is the program?

The program is three quarters or nine months from September to June of each year.

Is the program full time course of study?

Yes, it is. Fall quarter class is four days per week from 8:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m. for 11 weeks*

Mon hrs Tues hrs Wed hrs Thurs hrs Fri hrs hrs/week Credits
Lab: Surg 111
3
Same
9
12
6
Theory: Surg 113
6
4
10
10
Clinical: Surg 115
6
6
2
Group A
Group B
18

*Schedules are tentative; subject to change

Winter quarter class (theory) is on Mondays from 8:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Lab instruction according to Group assignment. Clinical Practice I (Surg 125) TBD (Externships begin in February; clinical affiliates dictate start date per student)*

Mon hrs Tues hrs Wed hrs Thurs hrs Fri hrs hrs/week Credits
Specialty: Surg 121
Two Sections
Two Sections
9
12
6
Theory II: Surg 123
6
6
6
Clinical: Surg 125
TBD
7
Group A
Group B
19

*Schedules are tentative; subject to change

Spring quarter class is on Mondays from 8:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Clinical assignment resumes or TBD. The Clinical experiences are designed to match the Operating Room schedule.*

Mon hrs Tues hrs Wed hrs Thurs hrs Fri hrs hrs/week Credits
Theory III: Surg 133
6
10
Clinical II: Surg 135
TBD
12
22

*Schedules are tentative; subject to change

Are classes only available during the day?

The Surgical Technology courses are offered only during the daytime because we can not obtain reliable and consistent clinical experience for the students. During the clinical practice, a clinical affiliate may request a student to offset another training schedule. The student then will be required to take the theory class online and take weekly exams at the college's testing center. The student will be accountable for all other assignments and its particular deadline.

How many students are accepted each year?

The program admits 24 students each fall.

Must the courses in the program be followed in a particular sequence?

Yes, the Surgical Technology courses must follow in sequence, and there is a continuation and completion policy stating that both theory and clinical courses in one term must be successfully completed before moving on to the next term. The prerequisite courses MUST be completed before acceptance in the Surgical Technology Program.

CPR AED for Healthcare Providers, First Aid, and HIV / AIDS–7 hours, I have completed these but not by credit classes. As a result, it will not show on my transcript will that be a problem?

Current certification is required and must remain current during the whole program. CPR / AED must be validated through the American Heart Association or an equivalent course for credit from an accredited Allied Health Program. CPR / AED must be for the Healthcare Provider level. Standard Precautions / First Aid is a separate course and follows the same guidelines. It is highly recommended that students accepted into Surgical Technology enroll in SURG 126.
*Note: The America Red Cross courses do not satisfy these requirements.

I have taken BIO 241 and 242 and earned above a 2.0 grade for both. Do I still need to take BIOL 128 Survey of Human Anatomy and Physiology?

No. Submit official high school transcript or GED® and any college transcripts.(Transcripts from North or South campus may be unofficial.) Students having previously earned credits in science / general education courses must apply for petition to have their credits evaluated and accepted for transfer. This process takes six to eight weeks, but can vary depending on the time of year and is the responsibility of the applicant to meet the deadlines. Please visit: Surgical Tech Entrance Requirements.

Can we pick the site for our clinical experience?

No, the sites will be assigned by the clinical coordinator (college) and the healthcare facility (clinical site). The student will have clinical observation experience at five or more healthcare facilities within the Greater Seattle Metropolitan Area (within 160 mile radius). The clinical observation experience will begin in mid October.

How are students selected? Exactly what is meant by competitive process?

In order to select applicants for programs with limited clinical slots, a competitive admissions procedure, NOT a waiting list, will be used which uses a point system. This procedure will be used when there are more applicants who have successfully completed the minimum program requirements and have submitted their applications than we have available clinical spaces.

When will I know if I have been selected into the program?

The selection committee will make selections approximately six weeks after the deadline. Applicants will be emailed immediately after the committee has made its selections. It is against our policy to release results of the committee over the phone. Applicants must await the letter to learn their acceptance status. Applicants should be aware that if they are placed on an alternate list or "standby" status, then they might be called later in the summer or early Fall to replace applicants who decline acceptance for any reason.

Can I apply to the surgical technology program even if I haven't completed all the requirements?

No. All requirements must be successfully completed prior to the April deadline for the academic year that you are applying. Incomplete application packets will not be processed.

Can I submit my application after the April deadline?

Yes. Applications after the April deadline will receive a time and date stamp. Applicants that do not meet the official deadline may still be asked to participate in the interview process.

Do I have to have a physical exam, immunizations, and certifications prior to applying?

No. The physical exam, immunizations, and certifications are pre–enrollment requirements. Only selected applicants must meet these requirements prior to fall entry.

How will I know if surgical technology is the right career choice?

There are several places that you can receive aptitude testing to determine what careers are compatible with your strengths. The objectives assessed in the Discover exam are those deemed by allied health educators as the most appropriate and relevant to measure entry–level skills and abilities. Please visit: Allied Health Discover.

Prior to acceptance into the program, you are required to attend an informational session. Informational sessions are held bi-monthly and each student will meet the program director. The program director will answer program specific questions. You might also consider talking to people you know who are currently practicing as Surgical Technologists. Ask specific questions, such as why did they chose a career in Surgical Technology? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What are the hardest and most rewarding aspects of their professional duties?

The Workforce Advisor and Allied Health Program advisor can help you understand the various Allied Health programs offered at Seattle Central. Various aspects of the surgical technologist's duties may not appeal to you. There is also an Allied Health Programs brochure that outlines the various programs. Allied Health Program brochures and other information can be obtained in the Allied Health Division office, Room BE3210.

There are other resources that you might want to consider. The Internet can be a valuable tool for researching questions you may have, and outlining issues of the profession.

What is the employment outlook?

There is a shortage of Surgical Technologists all over the country. Because of the shortage of nurses, especially in the operating room, the field will continue to grow. It is estimated there will be an increase of 19 percent in surgical technologist positions by 2010–2020.

Why do I need a background check?

Clinical experience within health care facilities is an invaluable part of your nursing education. To ensure the safety and well–being of clients, health care facilities require that each student complete a Background Check. Results of the National and State Background Check are confidentially retained by the Surgical Technology Program at Seattle Central. A Criminal History Background Check must have no convictions or discrepancies in order to maintain placement in the Surgical Technology Program.

To whom does the surgical tech report?

The operating room manager is typically a surgical technologist's direct supervisor. However, during surgical procedures, surgical technologists work under the direct supervision of the surgeon. Surgical techs also work with nurses who often serve in the circulator role.

What are the most exciting aspects of the job?

Some people, coined appropriately as adrenaline junkies, are attracted to this profession mainly because they associate surgery with trauma victims and lots of blood. While there are certainly trauma situations, most of what surgical techs deal with is routine and pre-planned surgeries.

Many surgical technologists believe the most exciting aspects of the job are the challenges of thinking quickly and determining what a surgeon needs when something does not go as planned. In surgery, equipment can break and a surgical tech needs to determine if it can be fixed at that time or if there's a back–up plan available. Thinking through these types of dilemmas quickly and efficiently is an exciting aspect of this profession.

How soon can one work as a traveling tech after graduation?

Travel companies who recruit surgical techs usually require one year of work experience as a Surgical Tech. Another common requirement to work as a traveling surgical tech is certification. Most healthcare travel agencies require you to be nationally certified simply due to the fact that more and more hospitals are requiring surgical techs to be nationally certified as a pre–employment requisite. Some states even require surgical techs to be nationally certified in order to work in that particular state.

Do I need to complete a certain amount of surgical cases before I can work as a traveling tech?

The type's of cases you can scrub will probably be more important than the amount of cases you have scrubbed. Once you get a year of experience and are very proficient in a service or specialty that is in high demand for traveler's, (high demand specialties include Orthopedics, Cardiovascular, Neuro, and Eyes), you may have the opportunity to work all over the country.

What type of salary can I expect as a Surgical Technologist?

Salaries vary greatly depending on experience, education, region, type of employer, and area of specialty surgical concentration (i.e., orthopedic, cardiovascular, or neurosurgery specialist, etc.). Surgical Technologists can also fill other specialty roles by nature of their training such as surgical sales representatives, sterile processing managers, surgical tech supervisors, materials management specialists, procurement techs, vet techs, or surg tech educators. According to The United States Department of Labor, the average salary for the Surgical Technologist is approximately $30,000 to over $50,000 yearly. Many Surgical Technologists have opportunities to significantly increase these wages through on-call and overtime opportunities. For a complete salary report, Please visit: bls.gov.

How does the Surgical Technologist advance to become a Surgical First Assistant?

Surgical First Assistants are allied healthcare providers that work under the supervision of the attending surgeon and assist the surgeon intraoperatively. Surgical First Assistants are also vital in the preparation of the surgical patient and of the operating room before the surgical procedure, and assist with patient care upon completion of the procedure. Surgical First Assistants have a much broader scope of practice than Surgical Technologists and includes duties such as placing retractors, manipulating tissue, clamping vessels, applying hemostatic agents and electrocautery, tying and suturing vessels and tissue, and the closure of body planes utilizing appropriate suturing techniques. In order for the Surgical Technologist to become a Surgical First Assistant, they must meet one of several requirements depending on the professional credential which they decide to obtain:

  • CSFA (formerly CFA): Certified Surgical First Assistant credentialed Surgical First Assistants are certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
  • CSA: Certified Surgical Assistant credentialed Surgical First Assistants are certified through the National Surgical Assistant Association.
  • SA–C: Surgical Assistant–Certified credentialed Surgical First Assistants are certified through the American Board of Surgical Assistants.

According to the standards of the Association of Surgical Assistants in cooperation with the Association of Surgical Technologists, the educational degree model for the Surgical First Assistant is a bachelor's degree in a field related to Surgical Technology. Also, the preferred path to certification (and a requirement in many situations) is to be a graduate of a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredited Surgical First Assistant program. A list of accredited schools/programs can be viewed Programs for Surgical First Assistant training typically last 12–24 months and lead to a certificate upon completion of the program.

More information on Surgical First Assistants is available at: Surgical Assistant Resource.

National Surgical Assistant Association: nsaa.net
NIFA, National Institute of First Assisting: First Assisting
Surgical Assistant CAAHEP Accredited Program Search: caahep.org

What opportunities are there to further my career in Surgical Technology?

Many Surgical Technologists have a desire to continue their education after completing a Surgical Technology program. There are various ways in which the Surgical Technologist can accomplish this goal. The Surgical Technologist can specialize in a specific branch of surgical medicine, such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, cardiothoracic, or peripheral vascular surgery. The experienced Surgical Technologist can also become a traveling tech. There are also positions available in veterinary medicine. Degrees in business or healthcare administration will prepare the Surgical Technologists for a career in medical device sales or in the management of a healthcare department or facility. An advanced degree in education or a field related to Surgical Technology (such as biology or applied sciences) will allow a Surgical Technologist to meet the educational requirement to teach at a college or university. Many Surgical Technologists have also gone on to obtain advanced degrees in Physician Assistant or Nursing. The Surgical Technologist can also advance through additional training and education to become a Surgical First Assistant. Currently, there is no bachelor level degree available in Surgical Technology.

Where can I get more information?

Please attend an information session and schedule an appointment with Bill Spence, the Surgical Technology program adviser 206.934.4188.

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