How to Become a Scrub Tech

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Scrub techs, also known as surgical technicians or technologists, prepare the operating room for surgery and assist physicians during operations. They lay out instruments and place equipment before surgery, and during the operation, they hand instruments to the surgeon, operate suction machines, monitor the patient's vital signs, and maintain the supply of blood and plasma. Becoming a scrub tech requires additional education beyond high school in science and surgical procedures.

Things You'll Need

  • High school diploma
  • Applications from surgical technology programs
  • Complete your high school diploma or equivalency. Schools offering training in surgical technology require high school education. Take as many science classes as you can during high school.

  • Check the website of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) for a list of accredited schools offering a two-year associate degree or a two-semester diploma or certificate in surgical technology. Only graduates of accredited programs are eligible for certification as a surgical technician, which most employers prefer and some states require. See Resources below for links to these websites.

  • Contact each school you are interested in for information, a schedule and an application for the surgical technology program. Apply to the schools you most prefer.

  • Begin your education to become a scrub tech. Check the Foundation for Surgical Technology website for scholarship possibilities. This organization awards scholarships for students enrolled in an accredited program. See Resources for a link to the website.

  • Obtain your associate degree, diploma or certificate by successfully completing all the required courses. These will include anatomy and physiology, biology, medical terminology, microbiology, nursing assistant training, operating room techniques and surgical procedures. Clinical work also is part of the curriculum.

  • Pass the state-administered certification exam. Your school will have information on schedules and how to register. The test is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), previously called the Liaison Council on Certification for Surgical Technologists.

  • Apply to hospitals, clinics and outpatient care centers. Your school will have job listings in the career center, and you also can check at job listing websites for further opportunities.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you are working as a scrub tech, consider specializing. Scrub techs who specialize in areas such as orthopedic or cardiac surgery can earn higher salaries.
  • Be aware that scrub techs must be able to stand for many hours and be alert throughout long surgeries. As a scrub tech, you also must deal with unpleasant sights and smells, and stressful situations.

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