What It Takes to Be a Great Surgical Technologist

surgical technologist career, surg tech, surgical instrumentsLearn about the qualities that enable these professionals to excel in the OR

If you’re interested in studying to be a surgical technologist, or are already enrolled in a training program, you’re probably excited about playing a hands-on role in the operating room. But what qualities will make you great at this job? It’s a good idea to work well with teams and be good under pressure, but if you know about the particular demands of this position, you can prepare yourself to excel.

The basic responsibilities of a surgical technologist are to maintain the equipment and sterile conditions in the OR. But the many variables inherent to this environment can make this job complex—and interesting. Read here about some qualities that can help you in the day-to-day demands of this job.

Tend to the Details
Since your job is to help prepare the OR so that a surgery goes smoothly, it’s essential to observe seemingly small details that can support the entire process. If you notice that your coworker is left-handed, you can position instruments (or yourself) in the most efficient position. This focus on detail can also have a big impact on safety for the patient—which is of course everyone’s priority in the OR.

Keep your cool
If you thrive under pressure, and become capable and decisive when other people might get caught up in the rush of adrenaline, work as a surgical technologist is a good career option. Working in an OR requires responding to a nonstop series of tense situations, as part of a team. You must be able to pay attention and be thorough and methodical, even in the midst of chaos. There is no room for shaky hands or nervous mistakes. People who thrive on stress will do well here, with the added benefit of satisfaction from helping patients in dire medical situations.

Aren’t squeamish
In the OR, you’re likely to see a lot of body parts (in various states of disarray) and other unusual medical sights. If you’re someone who gets light-headed, that can distract you from the urgent work in front of you. You’ll probably do better in this job if seeing these kinds of operations intrigues and amazes you, rather than nauseates you. Whatever it takes, your ability to remain focused in the midst of a lot of gore and blood will support the patient—and the rest of the team in their life-saving efforts.

Take criticism constructively
Things will occasionally go awry, and surgeons are not necessarily ones to mince words about what went wrong or whose fault it was. If you’re on the receiving end of some criticism—whether it’s delivered harshly or not—the best response is to take in the feedback, stay focused, and learn from the mistake. The stakes are high in an OR, and once you get to know know the members of your surgical team, you can anticipate their needs or avoid any potential frustrations.

Think on your feet
The reality of surgical procedures is that the carefully orchestrated and intricately planned sequence of events doesn’t always go as expected. When unanticipated issues arise, it’s essential that every member of the team is flexible, to address the situation at hand. There’s no value in staying wedded to a particular strategy when things are changing on the fly, and working in the OR demands that you not be flustered by these rapid changes. Instead, being adaptable and devising new solutions are what win the day.

Keep in mind that a good training program can help you practice many of these essential skills. If you think you might have what it takes, look into a surgical technology program near you. The training could give you the foundation you need to start a new career in healthcare—one that leverages your skills and also helps to save lives.


This article is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We’re dedicated to supporting our students in achieving their personal and professional goals. Reach out to us for more information about the programs we offer at eight campuses located in New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.