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What’s the Difference between a Surgical Technologist and a Surgical Assistant?

difference between surgical technologist and surgical assistantBoth positions play important roles on the surgical team

When you are looking for career training, sometimes the job titles can be confusing. At the Harris School of Business, one of the programs we offer is the Surgical Technologist program. Students entering this program are training to become surgical technologists, which are also sometimes called surgical technicians, surg techs, operating room technicians, or scrubs.

Surgical technologists are slightly different from surgical assistants, and typically get different training. Here are some of the differences between surgical technologists and surgical assistants.

What Surgical Technologists Do

Surgical technologists support the surgical team in a variety of ways, such as prepping the operating room, ensuring that all equipment and instruments are ready for a procedure, maintaining the sterile field, patient transport, and helping to monitor equipment during the procedure.

Some surgical technologists help out with patient-related tasks, such as holding suction tubes, but usually these tasks are reserved for the surgical assistant. Most surgical technologists have completed an accredited program specifically for surgical technology.

A typical day in the life of a surgical technologist might include some of the following tasks:

  • Organize and prepare the sterile and non-sterile equipment for a particular procedure
  • Make sure the operating room is prepared with the correct surgical instruments and equipment, sterile solutions, and sterile drapes
  • Check the surgical equipment to make sure it is working before the procedure starts
  • Talk with patients, check their vitals, and help prepare them for surgery
  • Transport patients to and from the operating room
  • During the surgery, pass instruments to surgeons and surgical assistants, and keep instruments organized
  • Help operate equipment such as sterilizers, suction machines, lights, or diagnostic equipment
  • Handle specimens that are being analyzed in the laboratory or dispose of specimens properly
  • Help clean the operating room and prepare it for the next operation

What Surgical Assistants Do

Surgical assistants are trained to do the same skills that a surgical technologist can do, but they often have additional responsibilities. Surgical assistants generally spend more time assisting the surgical team with the patient. Their tasks may include exposure, hemostasis (which means staunching the bleeding), and closure of the surgical site.

Surgical assistants also help with specific tasks during the surgery, such as sponging, suctioning, and applying dressings. Most surgical assistants have completed an accredited program in surgical assisting, but sometimes people who were trained as surgical technologists can be promoted to surgical assistant. Another title for surgical assistants can be “first assistants.”

While the Harris School does not train surgical assistants, we do offer a training program for surgical technologists. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a surgical technologist, you can read more about this career choice in our article 5 Things to Know About Becoming a Surgical Technologist.

The Harris School of Business offers an accredited surgical technology program at our locations in Dover, DE and Voorhees, NJ. For more information about this program, or any of the career-focused training programs at the Harris School, fill out our information form, and a representative will contact you shortly.

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