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How to Prepare for Surgical Tech School

A comprehensive guide to prepare you for a career as a Surgical Technologist

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Prospective Surgical Tech students embarking on their educational journey can anticipate a comprehensive curriculum that combines classroom learning with hands-on practical training. Surgical Tech schools provide a structured program designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to assist in surgical procedures effectively. Expect to delve into subjects like anatomy, medical terminology, surgical procedures, and sterile techniques. The program typically emphasizes both theoretical understanding and practical proficiency through simulated surgeries and clinical rotations.

In this guide, you’ll find a wealth of valuable tips, tricks, and resources that will empower you to approach Surgical Tech school with unwavering confidence. Whether you’re navigating coursework or seeking insights into the medical field, this guide will be an indispensable companion on your journey to becoming a proficient and skilled Surgical Tech.

If you’re still looking to apply to a Surgical Tech school, click here to learn more about the Surgical Technology Program at Brookline College.

Why Become a Surgical Scrub Tech?

Embarking on a career as a Surgical Tech, sometimes called a surgical technologist or scrub tech, is a decision driven by a range of compelling factors. As you explore this path, it’s essential to “find your why,” delving into the reasons that resonate with you on a personal and professional level. There are multifaceted reasons that make becoming a Surgical Tech a fulfilling and promising choice. One of the primary draws is its strong job stability and competitive financial rewards. In the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, surgeries remain a critical aspect of medical care, ensuring a consistent demand for skilled Surgical Techs. Surgical Techs also play a pivotal role in the operating room. This sense of responsibility and contribution to the betterment of others can be deeply rewarding. If you thrive in a fast-paced and hands-on environment, Surgical Tech might be an ideal fit. The operating room buzzes with energy, offering a dynamic setting where every day presents new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. The diversity of surgeries and the constant need to adapt to various scenarios make the job intellectually stimulating and personally gratifying. Surgical Techs work closely with surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals, and collaborating effectively in the operating room provides a sense of camaraderie that contributes to job satisfaction. Lastly, the journey as a Surgical Tech is not limited to a single path. As you gain experience, you can explore various specialties and even consider further education to become a surgical assistant or pursue related roles in healthcare administration or education.

In essence, the decision to become a Surgical Tech is anchored in a blend of financial stability, a sense of purpose derived from patient care, a stimulating work environment, and opportunities for growth. By identifying and embracing your personal motivations, you’ll find the passion and determination needed to excel in this impactful profession. As you navigate your path toward becoming a skilled Surgical Tech, remember that this guide is designed to provide you with the insights, strategies, and resources to bolster your confidence and maximize your success. From study techniques to practical advice, you’ll have everything you need to embark on this exciting journey with clarity and assurance.

Click here to learn more about how to become a Surgical Technologist.

Find the Right Surgical Tech Program for You

Surgical Tech programs come in various shapes and sizes, each offering distinct benefits tailored to the preferences and goals of aspiring students. As you embark on your educational journey, understanding the range of options available and what to look for in a program is essential. Different Surgical Tech programs cater to diverse learning styles and career aspirations. Some programs emphasize hands-on training in simulated operating rooms, enabling you to develop practical skills through realistic scenarios. Others might focus more on theoretical knowledge, providing a strong foundation in medical principles. Additionally, programs affiliated with renowned medical institutions might offer networking opportunities and prestigious credentials.

When evaluating Surgical Tech schools, several factors warrant consideration:

  • Accreditation: Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body to ensure its quality and credibility.
  • Clinical Experience: Look for programs that offer substantial clinical rotations, as hands-on experience is vital in this field.
  • Faculty Expertise: Investigate the qualifications and experience of the faculty, as their guidance significantly impacts your learning.
  • Placement and Success Rates: Research the program’s job placement rates and success stories of graduates in securing employment.
  • Resources: Consider the availability of state-of-the-art facilities, up-to-date surgical equipment, and access to relevant resources.

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Surgical Tech programs’ lengths and costs can vary widely. Certificate or diploma programs might last around 9-12 months, while associate degree programs often span 18-24 months. The cost can vary significantly depending on the location, in-state or out-of-state tuition, and type of institution offering the training. The Surgical Technology Program at Brookline College, for example, offers some form of financial aid to help cover the cost of education. It’s important to consider your budget and the potential return on investment when choosing a program. Additionally, each student’s learning preferences vary, influencing their choice of program format. Some students thrive in the bustling environment of a large university with extensive facilities, diverse extracurricular activities, and access to prominent medical faculty. On the other hand, smaller colleges may offer a more intimate classroom setting, fostering close relationships with instructors and classmates. This environment can be particularly beneficial for personalized learning and mentorship. Lastly, online programs offer flexibility, allowing you to balance your studies with other commitments.

Ultimately, the choice of Surgical Tech program should align with an individual learning preferences, career aspirations, and lifestyle. By carefully considering factors like accreditation, hands-on experience, faculty expertise, and program format, you’ll be better equipped to select a program that sets you up for success. Regardless of the path you choose, this guide will continue to provide you with valuable insights and strategies to thrive in your journey as a future Surgical Tech.

How to Get into Surgical Technology School

Admission to a Surgical Technology program typically requires a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Some programs might also have prerequisites such as basic science courses or healthcare-related experience. Once admitted, the coursework curriculum generally encompasses:

  • Anatomy and Physiology: Understanding the human body’s structure and functions is fundamental to succeeding in surgical procedures.
  • Surgical Techniques: Learning sterile techniques, surgical instrument handling, and various surgical procedures.
  • Medical Terminology: Acquiring a comprehensive grasp of medical language used in surgical settings.
  • Pharmacology: Gaining knowledge about medications and their application during surgeries.
  • Clinical Rotations: Hands-on experience in real operating room environments to develop practical skills.
  • Patient Care and Safety: Focusing on patient comfort, safety protocols, and infection control.

To apply for a Surgical Tech program, candidates typically need to submit an application form, transcripts, and possibly letters of recommendation. Some programs might require an interview or entrance exam. The application process can vary in duration, from a few weeks to a couple of months. After submitting your application, schools usually take a few weeks to review applications and conduct interviews if necessary. The time it takes to hear back from schools can vary, but applicants often receive responses within 4-6 weeks.

Dealing with Denial

If you receive a denial from a Surgical Tech program, don’t be disheartened. It’s essential to approach this situation with resilience and a proactive mindset:

  • Request Feedback: Reach out to the admissions office for feedback on your application. This can provide insights into areas that might need improvement.
  • Consider Alternatives: Research other Surgical Tech programs or consider completing prerequisites to strengthen your application for the next application cycle.
  • Enhance Your Application: Use the feedback received to address any weaknesses in your application. This could involve gaining more healthcare experience, improving your academic performance, or enhancing your personal statement.
  • Stay Determined: Remember that setbacks are part of the journey. Use the experience to motivate yourself and reapply with a stronger application in the future.

Navigating the application process and dealing with a denial can be challenging, but your commitment and determination can lead you to success. This guide is designed to provide you with the tools and guidance you need to make informed decisions, whether you’re applying to a Surgical Tech program, waiting for a response, or strategizing your next steps after receiving a decision.

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What Are the Surgical Tech School Prerequisites?

Surgical Tech programs vary in their prerequisites, influenced by the program’s level, school, and specific curriculum. It’s important to recognize that prerequisites can differ significantly, even within the same degree level. To ensure you’re well-prepared, make sure to communicate directly with program advisors or admissions counselors to obtain a comprehensive list of prerequisites for your chosen program. Before applying to any Surgical Tech program, take the proactive step of reaching out to program advisors or admissions counselors. They can provide you with an accurate and up-to-date list of prerequisites. These prerequisites might encompass high school or college coursework, prior medical experience, or specific skills that the program considers essential for success.

Understanding the SLE-Q

For entrance into a surgical tech program, students take the Wonderlic Scholastic Level Exam– Quicktest (SLE-Q), which is an admissions test used by several higher education programs, most notably in health occupation fields. It is the leading admission test for career colleges across the United States. The exam is, in essence, a cognitive abilities test, which determines a person’s problem-solving skills as well as his or her abilities to learn, understand, and follow instructions. The Quicktest is an online exam with 30 questions that need to be completed in eight minutes. This is in contrast to the longer version of the exam that generally takes place on-site, contains 50 questions and must be completed in twelve minutes.

The different question types used to assess cognitive ability may include, word comparisons, antonyms, graphs, number comparisons, simple math, sentence forming, and syllogisms. A Wonderlic SLE score is calculated by the number of correct answers given in the allotted time, regardless of their placement in the test or their difficulty. The score is determined simply by how many questions you answered correctly. The average score is approximately 22. Each educational institution or program has its own requirements and will set the passing score.

Updating Immunizations and Certifications

Before starting your Surgical Tech program and participating in clinical rotations, you’ll likely need to provide proof of immunizations and certain certifications. These measures are crucial to ensure a safe and sterile healthcare environment for both you and the patients. While specific requirements can vary, make sure to follow your program’s guidelines closely and stay up to date on necessary immunizations and certifications. As you navigate the prerequisites, admissions tests, and documentation needed for your chosen Surgical Tech program, remember that diligent research and effective communication will be your allies. This guide is here to empower you with knowledge and guidance, helping you to confidently meet the requirements and embark on a successful journey toward becoming a skilled Surgical Tech.

The specific immunizations and certifications required for applying to Surgical Tech schools can vary from one institution to another. However, here’s a general list of common immunizations and certifications.


  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap): A booster shot to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR): Vaccination to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • Hepatitis B: Vaccination series to protect against hepatitis B virus.
  • Varicella (Chickenpox): Proof of immunity through vaccination or history of having had chickenpox.
  • Influenza (Flu): Annual flu vaccination may be required due to the healthcare setting.
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Screening: A negative TB test or chest X-ray to screen for tuberculosis.
  • Meningococcal Vaccine: Some schools may require this vaccine to protect against meningococcal disease.

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  • Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification: Often required as it covers essential life-saving techniques, including CPR.
  • Healthcare Provider CPR Certification: A more advanced CPR certification tailored for healthcare professionals.
  • First Aid Certification: Training in basic first aid techniques can be required.
  • CPR for Healthcare Providers: Specific CPR training that is tailored for medical professionals.
  • OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Training: Training on handling potentially infectious materials safely.
  • HIPAA Training: Understanding patient privacy laws and regulations.
  • Infection Control Certification: Knowledge of infection control protocols in a medical setting.
  • Surgical Technology Certification (CST): While not always required for admission, having a CST certification can enhance your application and job prospects after graduation.

Always check the specific requirements of the Surgical Tech schools you’re interested in applying to. Additionally, these requirements might change over time, so make sure to confirm the most up-to-date information directly from the school’s admissions department.

Is Surgical Tech School Hard?

As you embark on your journey in a Surgical Tech program, it’s important to acknowledge that challenges will inevitably arise. These challenges are a natural part of your educational path and are opportunities for growth, resilience, and ultimately success. The curriculum can be demanding, covering complex topics like anatomy, surgical techniques, and medical terminology. The volume of information may feel overwhelming at times. Juggling coursework, assignments, and potentially part-time work or other commitments can be challenging. Balancing these responsibilities requires effective time management skills. Also, working in real operating rooms during clinical rotations can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Inevitably, there will be assessments, including exams and practical evaluations, which are a crucial aspect of the program. The pressure to perform well can sometimes lead to test anxiety. Moreover, the fear of failing a class or a test can loom large.

It’s important to remember that facing the challenges described above is not a sign of inadequacy but rather an opportunity for personal and professional growth. If you stumble, remember that setbacks are stepping stones, not roadblocks. If you encounter difficulties, don’t hesitate to ask questions, seek clarification from instructors, and utilize tutoring resources if needed. Failing a class or test doesn’t define your overall success. Be sure to prioritize self-care to manage stress. Proper rest, healthy eating, and regular physical activity contribute to mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, when tackling complex topics or assignments, break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks and be sure to connect with peers. Form study groups with classmates because collaborative learning can provide different perspectives and support.

The journey you’re embarking on is one of dedication, passion, and perseverance. Remember that every obstacle you overcome brings you closer to your goal of becoming a skilled Surgical Tech. By utilizing the tips, tricks, and resources provided in this guide, you’re equipping yourself with the tools to overcome challenges and excel in your program. The path won’t always be easy, but the rewards that await you at the end make the journey worthwhile. You’ve got what it takes—embrace the challenges, keep pushing forward, and make your mark in the world of surgical technology.

Surgical Tech School Tips

Embarking on your Surgical Tech journey is an exciting and transformative experience. To help you navigate this path with confidence and make the most of your education, here are some creative and effective tips:

Female medical students studying in a classroom

Embrace Active Studying:

Engage in active learning techniques such as creating flashcards, teaching concepts to a friend, or explaining complex topics aloud. Active studying promotes deeper understanding and retention compared to passive reading.

Why: Active studying encourages you to actively process and synthesize information. Teaching others solidifies your grasp of concepts, while flashcards reinforce memory recall, enhancing your ability to excel in exams and practical evaluations.

Network and Collaborate: Build connections with your peers and instructors. Join study groups, engage in discussions, and attend networking events to broaden your knowledge base and share insights.

Why: Networking exposes you to diverse perspectives and different approaches to learning. Collaborating with classmates fosters a supportive community where you can exchange ideas, share resources, and tackle challenges together.

Prioritize Sleep and Health: Maintain a regular sleep schedule and prioritize your physical well-being. A well-rested and healthy body contributes to mental clarity and focus.

Why: Quality sleep is essential for cognitive function and memory consolidation. A balanced diet and regular exercise support your overall well-being, enhancing your capacity to absorb and process new information.

Practice Stress Management: Explore stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or yoga. Managing stress enhances your ability to handle pressure and maintain a clear mind.

Why: Stress can impede learning and performance. Incorporating stress management techniques into your routine equips you with the tools to navigate challenges calmly and maintain a positive mindset.

Balance Work and Social Life: While dedicating time to your studies is crucial, don’t neglect social interactions and personal hobbies. Balancing work and leisure keeps you motivated and prevents burnout.

Why: Engaging in social activities and pursuing hobbies fosters a healthy work-life balance. Taking breaks allows your mind to recharge, making you more productive and focused when you return to your studies.

Seek Guidance from Instructors: Your instructors are valuable resources. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, seek clarification, and take advantage of their expertise.

Why: Instructors are there to support your learning journey. They can provide insights, offer guidance, and help you better understand complex topics. Building a rapport with them enhances your overall academic experience.

Stay Adaptable and Open-Minded: Be open to exploring new techniques and perspectives. The medical field is dynamic, so cultivating adaptability prepares you for the ever-evolving nature of healthcare.

Why: Surgical technology is constantly evolving. Embracing new approaches and staying open to learning equips you with the versatility needed to excel in your career and make a lasting impact.

By implementing these tips and infusing creativity into your approach, you’re setting yourself up for success. Embrace the challenges, celebrate your achievements, and remain passionate about the impactful work you’ll contribute to the world of healthcare.

How to Study for the Surgical Tech Exam

As a Surgical Tech, obtaining certification demonstrates your commitment to excellence and professionalism in the field. While Surgical Techs do not typically have a national certification exam like some healthcare careers (e.g., NCLEX-RN for nurses), there are professional certifications available that can enhance your credentials. The exam is typically administered electronically and takes around four hours to complete. Let’s explore the contents of the exam in more detail.

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NCCT Certification Exam Focus Areas

Aspiring surgical techs are able to gain certification through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). The certification exam for Surgical Technologists is designed to assess their knowledge and skills in the field and covers topics across three primary domains: Preoperative Care and Preparation, Intraoperative Care and Preparation, and Postoperative Care and Preparation. The preoperative focus area includes things like setting up for surgical procedures, patient safety, sterile techniques, and documenting unusual events to name a few. Intraoperative Care and Preparation focus area includes supporting the needs of the surgeon, procedure tasks, and preparation of supplies. The Postoperative Care and Preparation focus area includes recognizing possible post op complications (e.g., bleeding at surgical site, hematoma), execute end of surgical procedures, such as room turnover, sterility etc.

Format of the exam

The format of the exam may include multiple-choice questions, as well as practical scenarios that assess your ability to apply your knowledge in real-world situations. It contains 175 scored items, 25 unscored pretest items, and candidates are allowed four hours to complete the examination. The passing score is determined by the NCCT and may vary based on the difficulty of the questions. Upon passing the exam, you will receive your certification from the NCCT. This certification signifies your competence in the field and can open doors to better job opportunities and increased earning potential.

Maintaining Your Certification

Once you’ve earned your CST certification, it’s important to maintain it through continuing education and periodic recertification. Maintaining an active certification status with NCCT requires the annual completion of continuing education hours and the payment of an annual recertification fee.

Launch Your Career in Surgical Tech Today

Armed with the insights, tips, and resources provided in this guide, you’re well-equipped to navigate the challenges, embrace the learning experiences, and emerge as a skilled Surgical Tech. From understanding the intricacies of surgical procedures to cultivating a supportive network and adopting effective study strategies, you’ll gain the tools to succeed in this highly valuable healthcare profession. Embrace the opportunities for growth, maintain your passion for learning, and remember that setbacks are simply opportunities to bounce back stronger. You have a dynamic and rewarding career ahead, contributing to the well-being of patients and the advancement of healthcare. Entry-level medical jobs, such as surgical technologist, are abundant across the growing healthcare industry, and many of them offer great opportunities for advancement. Explore the best entry-level medical jobs to learn more about launching a healthcare career and expanding your opportunities in this dynamic profession.