Top 4 Operating Room Duties of a Surgical Technologist

Here are four things every surgical technologist must do in the operating room.

surgical assistants help surgeon during operation

Life in the operating room (OR) can be hectic and demanding, with life-threatening emergencies often occurring despite hours of careful planning and prep. As a key member of the team, the surgical technologist must anticipate the needs of the patient and the surgeon to ensure that each operation goes as smoothly as possible.

Here are the tasks a surgical technologist must perform and be prepared for with every surgery:

Preoperative: Sterile Hands

The surgical technologist is the first person to enter the OR before surgery. During this preoperative phase the surgical technologist adheres closely to the following routine:

  • Carefully dons his or her operating room attire, including scrubs
  • Begins to prepare and sterilize the room
  • Gathers all of the equipment and surgical tools that the surgery requires
  • Sterilizes, counts and carefully arranges them

The most important part of this preoperative phase is creating and maintaining the OR’s sterile environment. Sterile fields can be compromised in a variety of ways, the most common of which is by introducing moisture. To prevent this, the surgical technologist is responsible for arranging dry drapes around the operating table and keeping all surfaces in a sterile condition.

Intraoperative: The Third Hand

During the intraoperative phase of the surgery, surgical technologists are still responsible for maintaining the sterility of the OR, but they also effectively become a “third hand” to the surgeon and surgeon’s assistant during the procedure and perform the following tasks:

  • Help prepare medications and administer them to the patient
  • Assist in retracting tissues from the patient
  • Passes the surgical tools to the surgeon and surgical assistant during the operation

At any time during an operation, if a tool is missing or contaminated, the delay or resulting infection could cost a patient his or her life. That is why surgical technologists must be diligent and thorough at all times.

Postoperative: Tying Things Up

As the operation concludes, surgical techs are responsible for the following:

  • Counting all of the tools and instruments used during surgery to ensure that nothing is left behind in a patient
  • Suture the incision and apply disinfected dressings to the area
  • Dispose of items such as needles and gauze, and continue to maintain the OR’s sterile environment until the patient is sent to the recovery ward

Thinking-On-Your-Feet: Cell Phones in the OR

While surgical techs aren’t expected to work miracles, they must be able to think quickly on their feet in emergency situations. During a recent hospital blackout and emergency generator failure, one quick-thinking surgical tech, with the help of the patient’s family member, rounded up enough cell phones to illuminate the OR while surgeons completed an emergency appendectomy.

Getting Started

If you’re up to these four tasks and you think a surgical tech career is your calling, browse our directory of surgical technologist schools, request information about programs that interest you, and get started today.

  • Is this page helpful?
  • YesNo