Scrub Tech: What They Do

The Role and Responsibilities of a Surgical Scrub Technician

Scrub Tech and Surgeons In Surgery Image
Scrub Tech and Surgeons. Image: © Janice Airey/Getty Images

What is a Scrub Tech?

A surgical scrub technician, also known as a scrub tech or operating room technician, is a member of the operating room team.  The surgical scrub technician is a college educated operating room worker who performs multiple job duties including providing the surgeon with the instruments needed to perform a surgery.

Scrub Tech Job Duties

On television, the surgical scrub tech responds to the surgeon's request for a scalpel by placing it in the surgeon's hand, but the job duties go far beyond handing instruments to the surgeon.

While a scrub tech's responsibilities do include participating in the surgery by providing sterile instruments to the surgeon, a scrub also helps prepare the patients for surgery by cleaning/shaving the skin, transferring the patient to the operating table, sterilizing the instruments, maintaining the cleanliness of the operating room, and last, but not least, helping the surgical team "scrub in".

The process of surgery is done using sterile technique, meaning that the instruments and other articles used in surgery are bacteria free, to prevent infection.  Sterile technique requires the scrub to not only perform their duties without contaminating the sterile field used in surgery, but to prevent others from contaminating sterile instruments as well.  This job also requires an extensive knowledge of surgical procedures.  The scrub tech does not just hand the instruments to the surgeon, they must know what instruments, tools and sutures are needed for a wide variety of procedures, the names of the instruments and to have them ready at a moment's notice.

After surgery, the scrub tech is responsible for safely gathering sharp and delicate instruments and counting the instruments to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is accidentally left inside the patient.  They also insure that disposable instruments are discarded safely, or are sent to be cleaned and sterilized for their next use.

Scrub Tech Education

In the United States, surgical scrub technicians are trained in multiple ways.  Many are trained at technical schools and community colleges, a two year degree is the most common route to a job as a scrub tech.  In the military, scrub techs are often taught on the job, and may have the duties of a scrub as well as a circulator without a formal degree.

Scrub tech training and job responsibilities can vary widely in areas outside of the United States; however, in the United States a scrub tech is certified by passing a test to show that they possess the knowledge necessary to perform the job correctly. 

Also Known As: scrub tech, surgical scrub, scrub, surg scrub, scrub technician, scrub technologist,

Examples: The surgical scrub knew what instrument the surgeon needed and handed it to him before he asked for it.

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