Surgical TechIt’s not that difficult to figure out what you’re thinking when you want to be a surgical technologist. You want to be in the operating room, helping patients and doing your part to make sure that a life or death situation ends up the former, not the latter.

But is it the right career path for you? What traits do effective surgical technologists possess that others, even others in the healthcare field, do not? It’s a given that most anyone who can call themselves a healthcare professional has certain traits: empathy and a desire to help being two of them. But what makes the surgical tech special?

These traits may not be necessarily unique to the surgical technologist, but this combination of skills must exist in order to develop and maintain a healthy working relationship in the operating room, that intense, fast-moving environment.

Trait 1: Performance under pressure

There is no higher-pressure environment than the operating room short of being part of a bomb squad: in many instances, someone’s life is literally at stake, and a single wrong move—something as simple as bumping into someone at the wrong moment—can have fatal consequences. Surgical technicians, then, must have the ability to perform under pressure, to offer an instrument quickly at a vital moment, confidently and quickly offering what the surgeon needs at that instant, without hesitation.

Trait 2: Attention to detail

The expression “It’s not brain surgery” exists for a reason: because brain surgery is one of the most delicate and intricate procedures a human can perform. Almost all surgeries are similarly complicated, which means you need to be sure to have the operating room in tip-top shape. Each instrument must be in its delegated place, each gown and mask must be straight, and everything must be just so to ensure the highest probability for success. Here’s a question as you are preparing the room for surgery: is the surgeon right-handed, or left-handed? Not knowing and, for example, standing in or leaving the instruments in the wrong spot can lead to a moment of confusion. Moments of confusion are the enemies of successful surgical procedures.

Trait 3: A strong constitution

In the operating room, you are most likely going to see unpleasant things. Exposed organs. Bones. Tumors. Tissue. You might even need to touch or carry one or more of these items, depending on the situation. The surgical team needs someone who will not become ill or pass out during the procedure, and someone who has the stomach to not bat an eye at the sight of blood. The OR is the place you’re going to see all of that. Make sure you can handle it.

Trait 4: A strong spine

Not physically, but you have to be able remain strong in a tense situation, and not melt down emotionally if things get harsh on occasion. The OR is an environment where words fly quickly, and if the surgeon or another member of the team reacts in a terse manner, or even yells or is critical of you in a crucial moment, you need the ability to shake it off and continue performing. Learning from your mistakes and not losing your composure, or worse, starting an argument, is critical for the health of the patient.