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Surgical Technologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Assists in operations, under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. May help set up operating room, prepare and transport patients for surgery, adjust lights and equipment, pass instruments and other supplies to surgeons and surgeon's assistants, hold retractors, cut sutures, and help count sponges, needles, supplies, and instruments.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Maintains a proper sterile field during surgical procedures.
  • Counts sponges, needles, and instruments before and after operation.
  • Scrubs arms and hands and assists the surgical team to scrub and put on gloves, masks, and surgical clothing.
  • Prepares patients for surgery, including positioning patients on the operating table and covering them with sterile surgical drapes to prevent exposure.
  • Provides technical assistance to surgeons, surgical nurses, or anesthesiologists.
  • Hands instruments and supplies to surgeons and surgeons' assistants, holds retractors and cuts sutures, and performs other tasks as directed by surgeon during operation.
  • Prepares, cares for, and disposes of tissue specimens taken for laboratory analysis.
  • Washes and sterilizes equipment, using germicides and sterilizers.
  • Monitors and continually assesses operating room conditions, including patient and surgical team needs.
  • Operates, assembles, adjusts, or monitors sterilizers, lights, suction machines, or diagnostic equipment to ensure proper operation.

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Surgical Technologists

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Surgical Assistant --