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What Does a Surgical Instrument Technician Do?

The surgical instrument technician sterilizes and prepares instruments for use in surgeries.
Surgical instrument techs are often responsible for sterilization and preparation of instruments and other areas of an operating room.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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A surgical instrument technician is a job within the allied health professions that involve working with surgical instruments. He or she may also refer to surgery technicians, surgical instrument techs, biomedical device technicians, or surgical techs. In the majority of professional situations, a surgical instrument tech is an individual responsible for sterilization and preparation of instruments and other areas of an operating or surgical procedure room. In some facilities, the technician may be defined as an individual who maintains and repairs surgical instruments.

Most surgical instrument technicians work in hospital settings in department operating rooms, but may also work in ambulatory care centers, outpatient surgical centers, and other facilities where invasive procedures, such as colonoscopies or oral surgeries, take place. In most job descriptions for this position, the primary responsibility is to prepare surgical instruments for use. This may involve sterilization, inventorying, and selection of instruments by order of an operating physician. In some cases, it may involve actually remaining in the operating room for the surgery itself to assist with instrumentation, post-operative sterilization and disposal.

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The actual clinical roles required of a surgical instrument technician will vary depending on the facility, the type of surgeries taking place, and the regulations of the facility. The roles and responsibilities are defined in the job description rather than the job title, as some surgical instrument techs may be considered part of a sterilization and preparation role while others may be considered a part of the surgical team. The education required for individual roles depends largely on the definition of and scope of responsibility for the role according to the employing facility.

The required education for surgical instrument technicians in most facilities is a minimum of a two-year degree in an allied health program specializing in surgical or biomedical procedures. Course material will include surgical instrument identification and use, medical terminology and sterilization procedures, as well as biology and any variety of related course matter. Some institutions may award short-term certificates for similar training courses, but not all employers will recognize certificate programs.

Schools that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) will offer courses that prepare students for entry-level surgical instrument technician and surgical technician positions. There are other organizations that offer accreditation in instrument sterilization, but it is essential to verify with area employers what level of education is needed for employment. Depending on the clinical scope of a surgical instrument technician as defined by an employing facility, continuing education credits may be required as a condition of employment.

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