Medical Assistant vs. Surgical Technician: What You Need to Know

Surgical Technicians (STs) assist surgeons in operating rooms by making sure that surgical equipment is laid out appropriately, seeing to it that such are made sterile for each procedure, that these instruments are handed to the surgeon as needed during the operation, and other important duties. STs are a select group of individuals that stick pretty much to a very specific set of duties and nothing more (or less).

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Surgical technicians can get an associate in the field but they, like all other allied health professionals, have to receive lots of hands on training — some of while on the job. As long as surgeons stay busy, STs will also be in demand and busy. One hit that the profession has taken is because of the more and more popular use of laser technology which has reduced the need for big-incision operations that required a wide range of surgical instruments to be used. This has negatively affected the job market and need for STs. On the other hand. Surgeons will always need assistants and STs, at least for now, have a place in the healthcare system.

Here are some of the major differences between Surgical Technicians and MAs:

  • Like MAs, Surgical Technicians can enter the field with either a certificate/diploma from a technical or trade school or they may also have an associates from an accredited college.
  • Surgical technicians don’t have the many patient care skills that MAs possess; in other words, the former is more focused and less diversified than the latter.
  • Surgical technicians spend much of their time wearing potentially uncomfortable surgical masks, gloves and gowns; these things can fee suffocating, especially after wearing them consistently all day long. The surgical arena, in other words, isn’t glamorous and may not be suitable for some people.
  • In operating rooms there are lots of dangerous pathogens flying around which present a constant danger to medical personnel that work therein; this is especially true for any patients with infectious or contagious diseases — in particular those that are fully or partially/marginally airborne. This is not the place for misophobes.
  • There is more of a danger to contract a contagious or infectious disease if working as an ST than there is working as an MA since cutting people open can unleash more dangerous microbes than just taking blood samples.
  • While MAs and surgical technicians both assist others, an ST’s role is more focused and limited; it is also more monotonous. Having been an MA, you might not appreciate that characteristic.
  • The skills an MA possesses are more transferable than an ST’s; in fact, there is no other job that could make use of an ST’s skills (except maybe that of surgeon, should an ST decide to attend medical school to become one); the skills of an MA, however, are useful for other positions, including for RN, should the MA decide to go that far (or further).
  • The medial salary of $46K is comparable to what MAs might be making, especially if experienced and certified.
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Article Written by Rachel Dennis

Rachel Dennis works as both a professional writer and health care provider. She has been a licensed health care provider since 1998, with work experience as a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician. She has been writing since 1994 and has been published both on-line and in print.

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