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Registered Nurse vs Surgical Technician (2024)

Registered Nurse vs Surgical Technician

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Key Points:

  • Registered Nurses provide direct patient care; Surgical Technicians assist surgeons during operations.
  • Registered Nurses typically earn higher salaries than Surgical Technicians. Both fields are in high demand, but Registered Nurses may have more job opportunities.
  • Registered Nurses require a nursing degree and license, while Surgical Technicians can train through a certificate program, diploma, or associate degree.
  • Both Surgical Technician and Registered Nurse programs can vary in cost and length, but RN is generally more extensive and expensive.

Healthcare is a rapidly growing field that offers a wide range of career opportunities. Registered nurses and surgical technicians play crucial roles in patient care, but their responsibilities and training differ. Understanding the distinctions between these two professions can help individuals make informed decisions about their career paths.

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What is a Registered Nurse and Surgical Technician?

Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse is a healthcare professional who provides direct patient care. They work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. RNs are responsible for assessing patient needs, developing care plans, administering medications, and providing emotional support to patients and their families.

Surgical Technician

A surgical technician, also known as a scrub tech or operating room technician, is a vital member of the surgical team. They assist surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals during surgical procedures. Surgical technicians prepare the operating room, sterilize instruments, and ensure all necessary equipment is available. They also assist with patient positioning, prepping, and draping.

Difference between a Registered Nurse and a Surgical Technician

While both registered nurses and surgical technicians work in healthcare settings and contribute to patient care, there are key differences between these two professions:

  1. Scope of Practice: Registered nurses have a broader scope of practice compared to surgical technicians. They are trained to provide comprehensive care to patients, including performing assessments, administering medications, and coordinating patient care. Surgical technicians, on the other hand, primarily focus on the surgical setting and are responsible for assisting during surgeries.

  2. Level of Responsibility: Registered nurses have more responsibility in terms of patient care and decision-making. They are often in charge of a team of healthcare professionals, including licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants. Surgical technicians work under the supervision of surgeons and registered nurses, and their primary role is to assist during surgical procedures.

  3. Patient Interaction: Registered nurses have extensive patient interaction and are often involved in providing emotional support to patients and their families. They play a crucial role in educating patients about their conditions, treatment plans, and self-care. Surgical technicians have limited patient interaction and primarily focus on the technical aspects of the surgical procedure.

Registered Nurse vs Surgical Technician: Job Description

Registered Nurse

  • Assessing patient needs and developing care plans
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Monitoring patient vital signs and providing ongoing assessment
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to coordinate patient care
  • Educating patients and their families about their conditions and treatment plans
  • Supervising and delegating tasks to other members of the healthcare team
  • Documenting patient information and maintaining accurate medical records

Surgical Technician

  • Preparing the operating room and ensuring all necessary equipment and instruments are available
  • Sterilizing surgical instruments and equipment
  • Assisting with patient positioning, prepping, and draping
  • Handing instruments and supplies to surgeons and nurses during surgery
  • Maintaining a sterile field throughout the procedure
  • Counting surgical instruments and supplies before and after surgery
  • Transporting patients to and from the operating room

Registered Nurse vs Surgical Technician: Education and Training

Registered Nurse

To become a registered nurse, individuals must complete a nursing program. There are three main pathways to becoming an RN:

  1. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): This is a two-year program offered at community colleges and some universities. ADN programs provide the basic knowledge and skills needed to become a registered nurse.

  2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This is a four-year program offered at universities and colleges. BSN programs provide a more comprehensive education, including courses in nursing theory, research, and leadership.

  3. Accelerated BSN Programs: These programs are designed for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field. They allow students to complete their nursing education in a shorter timeframe.

After completing a nursing program, individuals must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as a registered nurse.

Surgical Technician

To become a surgical technician, individuals typically need to complete a postsecondary certificate or associate degree program in surgical technology. These programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and some universities. The duration of the program can range from several months to two years.

Surgical technology programs include both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Students learn about surgical procedures, sterile techniques, and patient care in the operating room. After completing their education, surgical technicians may choose to become certified through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

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Registered Nurse vs Surgical Technician: Career Outlook and Salary

Registered Nurse

Registered nursing is a rapidly growing profession, with a high demand for qualified nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

The median annual wage for registered nurses was $86,070 in May 2023, according to the BLS. The highest 10 percent earned more than $132,680, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,720.

Surgical Technician

The career outlook for surgical technicians is also positive, with a projected growth rate of 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, according to the BLS. This growth is attributed to the increasing number of surgeries being performed and the aging population.

As of May 2023, the median annual wage for surgical technologists was $60,610, according to the BLS. The highest 10 percent earned more than $83,150, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,640.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a nurse and a technician?

Both roles involve assisting patients with daily activities such as giving meals, bandage replacement, and maintaining cleanliness by disposing of waste and sterilizing surfaces. However, medical technicians are limited to providing care under the instruction of a physician, while nurses have the skills to develop a patient care plan.

What is the difference between an OR nurse and a surgical nurse?

An OR nurse, also known as an Operating Room Nurse, focuses specifically on providing care to patients before, during, and after surgical procedures in the operating room. A Surgical Nurse, on the other hand, can work in various areas of the surgical process, including pre-operative care, but also in recovery units or surgical wards, providing post-operative care. Both roles require specialized knowledge, but the main difference lies in their specific areas of focus within the surgical process.

What type of nurse is most in demand?

There's a high demand for various types of nurses, especially those with expertise in specific areas such as critical care, heart health, and child health. Here are some particular nursing roles that are greatly needed:

  1. Critical Care Nurse: These are also known as ICU nurses. Their skills are highly sought after because of the intricate nature of healthcare.

  2. Oncology Nurse: These are nurses trained specifically in cancer care. They guide patients through their treatment options and keep them informed about their recovery progress.

  3. Neonatal Nurse: These nurses, who specialize in newborn care, are in particularly high demand.

  4. Surgical Nurse: Nurses who assist in surgeries are also greatly needed.

Can you go from surgical tech to PA?

Yes, a surgical tech can become a Physician Assistant (PA) by pursuing additional education and meeting the necessary requirements. This typically involves earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited PA program, and at least 500 to 2,000 hours of hands-on patient care experience. Experience as a surgical tech in surgery is preferred, but other healthcare experiences that involve direct patient care are also considered. Passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination is also a must!

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a career as a registered nurse or a surgical technician depends on individual preferences, interests, and career goals. Registered nurses have a broader scope of practice, more responsibility, and higher earning potential. They also have more opportunities for career advancement and specialization. Surgical technicians, on the other hand, have a more focused role in the surgical setting and may prefer the hands-on technical aspects of their job.

Both professions offer rewarding and fulfilling careers in the healthcare field. Regardless of which path individuals choose, they can make a positive impact on patients' lives and contribute to the overall well-being of their communities.

Discover Dreambound's program accessibility across various locations. For detailed insights into the two vocations, their requirements, and joining procedures, explore the following blogs:

Marce Arnejo
Written by
Marce Arnejo

Marce Arnejo is part of the Sales team at Dreambound. Her role involves seeking out schools and institutions to provide valuable opportunities for students seeking a career in the healthcare sector. Beyond her professional life, Marce is passionate about music and gaming. She finds joy in exploring various genres of music and using gaming to unwind and immerse herself in virtual worlds. Her diverse interests enrich her personal life and contribute to her work by bringing new ideas and creativity.

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