Surgical Technologists: The Surgeon's Right Hand

A surgical technologist hands medical scissors to the head surgeon during surgery.
Jared Libby

In an operating room, every second matters. With lives counting on you to show up and perform your tasks seamlessly, it’s understandable why Surgical Technologists commit to an intensive work environment. Hailed as “the surgeon’s right hand,” it’s a befitting moniker for their extensive preparation and attention to detail as if they were an integral appendage. Their talents lie in smooth, methodical movements, passing off the precise instrument as requested for the patient’s welfare. TMCC and the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) partner to educate students in this essential healthcare career. CSN provides the Associate of Applied Science degree with classroom space and resources from TMCC. Nationally and locally, hospitals are desperate for personnel, and you won’t find any program like this in Northern Nevada. With paid apprenticeships available, you can gain extra cash while training for prominent medical care center positions. This profession is not for the faint of heart, has nothing to do with nursing, and will push you, but if you want to be of service, look no further.

Days That Are the Most Demanding, You Learn About Yourself

If you’re a hands-on learner interested in anatomy, can endure the sight of blood, and dispatch exact tools, surgical technology invites your enrollment wholeheartedly. Most don’t spend their childhood musing about being a public health specialist. You can pick it up now if your desire to help people is evident. The only other person who gets to be as close to the patient, whether organ removal or delivering a baby, is the surgeon.

“The need is so great in Northern Nevada, Reno, and Carson City. At least three of our major facilities are offering paid apprenticeships right now. That’s huge. Once you complete the 16-week fall semester, you’re qualified to be hired by Renown or Carson Tahoe Hospital to get paid as a surgical technology apprentice while going to school,” said Cristobal Aguilar, Surgical Technology Program Director at CSN.

Earning your Certified Surgical Technologist credential is a leap for future endeavors, with outlooks on transferable skills and unique employment options. You can aspire to physician assistant school or even become a doctor through diligence and perseverance, indispensable qualities in this occupation.

It’s satisfying to know your colleagues can count on you. With a million details to address before, after, and during surgery, your team can focus on their responsibilities meticulously and without worry. As you open sterile supplies and equipment and monitor the area to prevent infection, the nurse arranges documentation, and the anesthesiologist readies sedation. It’s as simple as caring for what you do. You’re tending to someone’s friend, mom, dad, or loved one. It takes dedication and sacrifice to follow through. You’ll receive significant instruction in one year, but time flies.

“You have to be strong and confident in situations where you should be the opposite. Say you’re in the operating room, and the doctor wants an instrument, but you give them the wrong one. They say, ‘No big deal. I wanted X instead of Y.’ Most of us will take hearing those words like, ‘Ugh, I blew it. I can’t believe I did that. Everybody’s watching, and now we’ve burned five seconds.’ Have the composure to reply, ‘My mistake. Here’s the right one,’” Aguilar said.

Aguilar shared how innovative technologies make their job smoother, with robotics at the forefront of incision cutting. Every medical center in town carries a da Vinci System, a minimally invasive machine that fixes your internal organs without a sizable slice, like taking someone’s appendix out. For the longest time, it was a three-inch tear leaving a scar. They don’t need to anymore. Guiding the device with their scopes and cameras allows them to make it an inch, watch on the screen, and remove it. It’s historic for treatments because it reduces the possibility of contamination, and the patient’s insides should be free from flesh-eating bacteria or staph. They ensure the room is clean before anyone else, creating, maintaining, and protecting sterility as others come in and out. Could you imagine if you were undergoing surgery and left with an infectious disease? Or perhaps even worse: a physical implement forgotten within you? Thankfully, you won’t have to with an experienced surgical technologist on staff.

“Who else gets to do this? When we have our pinning ceremonies, I total up all the surgical procedures our 15–20 students help with. If they helped with 2,000 surgeries, they didn’t help 2,000 people. Every one of those patients has somebody else, at least a friend. Maybe they’re a dad with four kids or a married woman with three. Children want to know their mom’s okay. Take 2,000 times two. In actuality, you helped 4,000 people,” Aguilar said.

For more information, please visit the Surgical Technologist CSN Partnership Program website.