Understanding the Shortage of Surgical Technologists: Its Implications and Solutions

Understanding the Shortage of Surgical Technologists: Its Implications and Solutions

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There's a growing concern in the medical field: the shortage of surgical technologists and the impact it could have on healthcare. This shortage isn't just a problem for hospitals and clinics—it has broad implications for patient care and the healthcare system as a whole. Here, we explore what the surgical tech shortage means, its causes and effects, and how creative solutions like Health Science degrees, Occupational Therapy, and advancements in Information Technology can be leveraged to tackle this issue. At Health Carousel Nursing & Allied Health, we strive to empower allied health professionals like you with valuable insights into this career.

The Surgical Tech Shortage

The surgical tech shortage is an ongoing issue affecting healthcare facilities across the country. It refers to the dramatically insufficient number of surgical techs compared to the demand. This essential group of allied health professionals plays a crucial role in patient care and the successful operation of medical institutions, especially in the operating room.

This shortage is heightened during periods of increased healthcare demand, such as the increased demand for healthcare services from COVID-19. The demand for these crucial members of the surgical team is growing, and the available supply of trained allied health professionals is not currently meeting this need.

Why There's a Shortage of Surgical Technologists

Multiple factors contribute to the surgical tech shortage. The primary reason is the aging population requiring more surgical procedures, thereby increasing the need for more surgical techs in operating rooms. Moreover, with advancements in healthcare technology, there is a wider variety of surgical procedures, further raising the demand for these allied health professionals.

Another crucial factor is the relatively high turnover and burnout rates among surgical techs. The roles require physical stamina, mental alertness, and emotional resilience. The stress, pressures, and intense demands can lead to high dropout rates. Many healthcare facilities also struggle with short-staffed operating rooms, leading to a higher workload for the existing techs and aggravating the situation.


The Role of Surgical Technologist in Healthcare

Surgical technologists, or surgical techs, play a vital role in the healthcare system by supporting surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists during surgical procedures. They are responsible for preparing the operating rooms, sterilizing and setting up surgical instruments, ensuring the right equipment is available, and assisting during surgeries by passing instruments.

Beyond direct surgical support, the surgical technologist also contributes to patient care, including preparing patients for surgery, positioning them, and caring for surgical sites post-operation. The scope of their work makes them a critical part of the surgical team, and healthcare facilities suffer when there is a shortage of these care workers.

How Patient Care is Affected by the Surgical Tech Shortage

The shortage of surgical techs ultimately impacts the quality and efficiency of patient care. With the growing need for surgical procedures, a shortage of qualified surgical technologists can lead to delays in surgeries and improper sterilization of instruments, which may result in infection risks and other complications. Furthermore, overworked surgical techs due to short-staffing can cause fatigue and decreased attentiveness, potentially leading to errors during procedures.

The shortage also puts additional pressure on other healthcare professionals, such as surgeons and nurses, who may have to take over some duties generally performed by surgical techs. This can divert attention and resources from patient care and overstretches the healthcare team, thus affecting overall patient outcomes.

How Health Science Degrees Can Address the Surgical Tech Shortage

An effective long-term solution to the surgical tech shortage is to increase the education and training of future surgical techs. With added training and increased education, it increases the likelihood of people pursuing a long career as a surgical tech. Health science education degrees, particularly those involving specific surgical tech programs, can play an integral role in addressing this issue, creating a pipeline of trained, qualified candidates ready to fill these roles.

How Education Degrees in Health Science Can Ease the Shortage

Significantly, education degrees in health science specifically focus on providing learners with multidisciplinary knowledge and hands-on experience in varying healthcare procedures. Furthermore, these degrees often include courses that develop key skills specifically needed by surgical techs.

Courses may cover surgical procedures, aseptic techniques, medical terminologies, and proper equipment handling. Completing such a program equips students with the relevant knowledge and practical know-how for the role, making them suitable candidates for surgical tech positions, thus contributing to easing the shortage.

The Importance of the Surgical Tech Program in Health Science Education

Specific surgical tech programs within health science education degrees are paramount to preparing students appropriately for this demanding role. These programs provide students with an immersive experiential learning environment where they can gain exposure to real-world surgical procedures and scenarios.

Furthermore, a surgical tech program within a health science degree often includes mandatory clinical placements, which offer beneficial hands-on experience. This uniquely prepares these students to meet the demands of the operating room and can help them transition smoothly into the workforce.

Can an Increase in Qualified Candidates Pursuing Health Science Degrees Reduce the Shortage?

Absolutely. Increasing the number of students enrolling in health science degrees with a focus on surgical tech programs and ensuring their successful graduation can significantly contribute to reducing the surgical tech shortage. Not only does it enhance the pool of qualified candidates, but the intensive training also helps reduce the high turnover rate associated with the role by adequately preparing the students for the realities of a surgical tech job.

Moreover, through health science degrees, healthcare facilities can establish partnerships with educational institutions, accelerating the process of hiring newly graduated surgical techs. Competency-based education and training contribute not just to the quantity but also the quality of the surgical tech workforce, hence elevating patient care and addressing the healthcare worker shortage effectively.

Why Occupational Therapy is Essential to Tackling the Surgical Tech Shortage

The current healthcare environment is facing a pronounced surgical tech shortage, leading to significant demands on existing surgical techs and impacting the overall function of healthcare facilities. Occupational therapists, with their vast array of skill sets, are uniquely equipped to address this healthcare worker shortage. They are trained to assist in operating rooms and improve teams' efficiency while ensuring robust patient care.

The Role Occupational Therapists Play in Short-Staffed Operating Rooms

Occupational therapists can bring an invaluable set of skills to an understaffed operating room. These allied health professionals are trained to understand the nuances of patient care and can assist surgical technologists during operations by performing necessary tasks.

Specific roles an Occupational Therapist might undertake in these scenarios can include:

  • Assisting the surgical technologists in preparing the operating room for surgery
  • Providing supportive care to patients post-surgery, thereby freeing up the surg techs who may otherwise be needed in the operating room
  • Helping to ease the workload of existing surgical techs by assisting with non-invasive tasks during operations

These measures can help the short-staffed operating rooms operate more effectively, alleviating the pressure on the existing surgical techs and ensuring that patient care does not suffer in any way.

Will More Occupational Therapists Alleviate the Shortage of Surgical Techs?

In the face of a surgical tech shortage, more Occupational Therapists could most certainly play an integral role in providing an immediate and effective solution. They have the necessary skills to assist surgical techs, which can help healthcare facilities improve their operations and patient care.

It’s important to note, however, that while Occupational Therapists can help address the immediate challenge, it is not a permanent solution. The primary aim should be to increase the number of qualified candidates enrolling in a surgical tech program to meet the growing demand in the healthcare industry.

Benefits of Including Occupational Therapists on the OR Team

The inclusion of Occupational Therapists in the operating room team can yield significant benefits:

  • Reduced workloads for surgical techs: By supporting the surgical techs in their duties in the operating room, the Occupational Therapists can significantly alleviate their workloads.
  • Improved patient care: Occupational Therapists play an essential role in post-operative care, an area that is sometimes overlooked but crucial in ensuring patients recover effectively.
  • Increased efficiency: With more support in the operating room, operational efficiency can be significantly increased, ensuring the smooth running of the healthcare facility.

Can Information Technology Help Overcome the Shortage of Surgical Techs

As the industry continues to grapple with the surgical tech shortage, Information Technology (IT) offers a beacon of hope. Through innovative systems and processes, IT can help manage this shortage.

How Information Systems Help Manage the Surgical Tech Shortage

Effective and advanced Information Systems can provide sustainable solutions to the immediate challenges posed by the shortage of surgical techs.

For example, hospitals can use Information Systems for efficient staff scheduling, ensuring that available surgical techs are optimally utilized. Additionally, Digital Patient Records and Management Software can reduce paperwork and administrative tasks for surgical technologists, allowing them to focus on their primary role in the operating room.

Can Information Technology Systems Ease the Work of Surgical Technologists?

Information Technology is being increasingly recognized for its potential to streamline processes in healthcare settings. Innovative systems such as Electronic Health Records (EHR), Telemedicine, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled devices can drastically reduce the workload of surgical technologists, making their tasks more manageable and aiding in efficient patient care.

What Role Can Information Technology Play in Educating Future Surgical Techs?

In today’s digitally driven age, Information Technology is playing a central role in education and training, and the field of health science is no exception. Health Science Education degrees make use of a variety of IT tools and platforms to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become surgical techs.

Online Learning Management Systems, Virtual Reality surgical simulations, and online resource libraries are just a few examples of how IT is revolutionizing health science education, making it more accessible and engaging for the future generation of surgical techs.

Begin Your Career as a Surgical Tech with the Help of Health Carousel Nursing & Allied Health

With the surgical tech shortage, the field needs more dedicated and qualified individuals to step up. Health Carousel Nursing & Allied Health knows how important it is to keep surgical tech positions filled nationwide.

Health Carousel Nursing & Allied Health can help you land a great surgical tech job that will allow you to grow your career and reach your goals. Some of the benefits of partnering with us over looking for positions on your own include:

  • A Full Circle of Support
  • Competitive compensation
  • Comprehensive health and wellness plans
  • Tailored job postings that align with your experience and aspirations

If you're ready to start your career as a surgical tech, Health Carousel Nursing & Allied Health is ready to guide you to greatness. Check out On Demand, our powerful web app, where you can search and apply for surgical tech travel jobs nationwide.


Where do surgical techs make the most money?

Surgical technologists tend to make the most money in regions with higher costs of living and larger metropolitan areas, as these factors often drive up salaries across many professions. Surgical techs may earn more in specialized surgical settings or at facilities that manage a high volume of complex procedures.

What is the future outlook for surgical technologists?

The future outlook for surgical technologists is generally positive, as the demand for healthcare services is expected to grow in response to an aging population and advances in medical technology.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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