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Surgical Technologists


The origins of surgery date back to prehistoric times, yet two scientific developments made modern surgery possible. The first was the discovery of anesthesia in the mid-19th century. Because the anesthesia eliminated the patient's pain, surgeons were able to take their time during operations, enabling them to try more complex procedures.

The second important discovery was that of the causes of infection. Until Louis Pasteur's discovery of germs and Joseph Lister's development of aseptic surgery in the 19th century, so many people died of infection after operations that the value of surgery was extremely limited.

During World War II, the profession of surgical technology grew when there was a critical need for assistance in performing surgical procedures and a shortage of qualified personnel. Shortly after, formal educational programs were started to teach these medical professionals.

Throughout the last century, the nature of most surgical procedures, with all of their sophisticated techniques for monitoring and safeguarding the patient's condition, has become so complex that more and more people are required to assist the surgeon or surgeons. Many of the tasks that are performed during the operation require highly trained professionals with many years of education, but there are also simpler, more standardized tasks that require people with less complex training and skills. Over the years, such tasks have been taken care of by people referred to as orderlies, scrub nurses, and surgical orderlies.

Today, such people are referred to as surgical technologists, operating room technicians, or surgical technicians. For the most part, these medical professionals have received specialized training in a community college, vocational or technical school, or a hospital-sponsored program. They are eligible to earn certificates of competence, diplomas, and associate degrees, and, in general, enjoy a higher degree of professional status and recognition than did their predecessors.

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