What Does a Surgical Technologist Do in the Operating Room?

Preoperatively, the surgical technologist prepares the operating room by providing the appropriate supplies and instruments, as well as by adjusting and testing select equipment. The surgical technologist is the first member of the sterile team to scrub, gown, and glove. Duties include preparation of the sterile field for the surgical procedure and helping other members of the team with gowning and gloving all while adhering to aseptic technique.

Intraoperatively, the surgical technologist anticipates the needs of the surgeon and sterile team members, passing instruments and providing sterile items in a safe and efficient manner. The surgical technologist shares accountability for all instruments, equipment, and supplies used in direct patient care, particularly in the sterile field. The surgical technologist is responsible for accurate counts of sponges, instruments, and sharps; preparing suture materials; dispensing appropriate fluids and drugs; and preparing specimens or cultures for analysis.

Postoperatively, surgical technologists help to apply dressings, splints, or casting material. They assist in moving the patient to the stretcher and also break down the back table and prepare the room for the next case.

Surgical technologists may also assist in the non-sterile role of circulator under the direction of the registered perioperative nurse. This can involve assisting the anesthesiologist, helping to count items used during the procedure, positioning and prepping the patient’s skin for surgery, and helping to connect surgical equipment and monitoring devices. With additional specialized education, training, and additional certification, the certified surgical technologist (CST) may function as a certified first assistant (CFA) using the designation of CST/CFA.