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For those looking for a challenging yet rewarding career in the medical field, becoming a travel surgical tech may be the perfect opportunity.
Travel surgical techs can make anywhere from $1,800 a week to $3,500 a week, depending on where in the country you get your contract, how much experience you have, and the unique demands of the facility and city/state you’ll be working in.
What Is a Travel Surgical Tech?
A surgical tech is a professional who assists surgeons and other healthcare providers in the operating room.
They are responsible for preparing and organizing necessary equipment, stocking supplies, and sterilizing the operating room before and after surgeries. They are also responsible for helping the medical staff during surgeries, passing instruments, and cleaning up after the procedure.
A travel surgical tech is just someone who travels from one short-term contract (usually about 3 months) to the next in different cities and states throughout the U.S.
To get your first travel assignment, you’ll need about a year of experience before a travel agency will work with you. Some agencies will be okay with only 6 months of experience, others might require more time — it all depends on the agency.
Obtaining the Necessary Certifications
In order to work as a travel surgical tech, you must first get licensed and certified. Depending on the state in which you practice, you may need to obtain a license to practice.
Additionally, you must become certified through either the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).
The NBSTSA offers the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) certification and the Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) certification.
The NCCT offers the National Surgical Technologist (NST) certification, which requires applicants to have completed an accredited surgical technology program.
Many agencies will reimburse you for licensing or certification fees, so check with your agency before paying for the test yourself.
Preparing to Travel as a Surgical Tech
Once you’ve obtained the necessary certifications, you can begin preparing for your journey as a travel surgical tech.
Start by researching the cities and states you might want to work in, but keep in mind that sometimes, you just have to take the best contract available. Your recruiter will help you find the right contract to start with.
You’ll also want to consider what type of travel you’d like to do. Some travel surgical techs prefer to stay in one place for a longer period of time, while others prefer to move around and take on short-term assignments.
Just keep in mind that contracts can be extended beyond the initial period to up to a year, but not beyond a year.
You’ll also need to have a plan for housing while on assignment. Many travel surgical techs opt to stay in corporate housing, which provides the convenience of a furnished apartment close to the hospital. However, because you’ll get a stipend for housing as part of your contract, you can find housing on your own if you prefer.
Finding the Right Travel Assignment
When it comes to finding the right travel assignment, it’s important to consider your needs and goals.
Do you want to stay in one place for a longer period of time or take on short-term assignments? Do you want to do local traveling (staying in the state you already live in and traveling at least 50 miles from your home address), or are you wanting to go to other states?
Is your goal the traveling itself, or is your goal to make a lot of money, or to make enough money to take large amounts of time off throughout the year? All of this will help you decide which contract to start with.
Once you’ve identified your goals, you can begin researching agencies.
What to Expect When Working as a Travel Surgical Tech
When you start a new assignment, there will be a period of adjustment. You’ll need to get familiar with the hospital’s policies and procedures, as well as the medical staff.
Additionally, you’ll need to adjust to the new environment and begin building relationships with your colleagues.
This is a skill in itself for a travel surgical tech — adjusting quickly to a new work environment. Every facility is different. You might find yourself having to rapidly adjust to new high-tech equipment. You might have to learn a completely new system. You might have to deal with some seriously outdated technology or procedures.
It’s essential that you get used to this because, once you’ve settled in (which most facilities expect you to do in only a few days), you can expect to work in a fast-paced and challenging environment.
Resources for Becoming a Travel Surgical Tech
If you’re interested in becoming a travel surgical tech, there are several resources available to help you. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) provides information on certification and recertification, as well as a directory of accredited programs.
The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) provides resources for those interested in a career in surgical technology, including information on certification, continuing education, and job opportunities.
Finally, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) provides resources for those interested in a career in surgery, including information on how to become a surgical technologist and the types of positions available.
Once you’ve obtained the necessary certification and experience, you can begin searching for travel surgical tech opportunities.
The best way to get your first assignment is to find a travel agency, talk to a recruiter, and let them bring you the best opportunities in the country to choose from.
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