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Massachusetts Governor Signs Surgical Technologist Certification Bill

Publish Date: 1/16/2013

A bill requiring certification of Massachusetts surgical technologists was signed by Governor Deval Patrick on December 28, 2012.

Senate Bill 2058 defines a variety of terms including “surgical technologist”, “surgical technology” and “operating room circulator” in Massachusetts law and sets forth certification requirements for surgical technologists. Notably, the bill specifies an “Operating room circulator” to be “a licensed registered nurse who is educated, trained and experienced in perioperative nursing, who is immediately available to physically intervene in providing care to the surgical patient.”

In the bill, the practice of surgical technology includes collaborating with an operating room circulator to prepare the operating room, gathering and preparing sterile supplies, preparing the sterile field and ensuring surgical equipment is functioning properly and safely. Surgical technologists will also be responsible for intraoperative anticipation and response to the needs of the surgeon and other team members by monitoring the sterile field and providing the required instruments or supplies. Performing tasks in the sterile field such as passing supplies, sponging or suctioning an operative site, preparing and cutting suture material, transferring and irrigating with fluids, transferring drugs within the sterile field, handling specimens, holding retractors and assisting the operating room circulator with counting sponges, needles, supplies and instruments will also be tasked to surgical technologists.

The bill prohibits surgical facilities from employing or retaining the services of any person to perform surgical technology tasks unless the person has either:

  • Successfully completed an accredited educational program for surgical technologists and holds and maintains a certified surgical technologist credential;
  • Successfully completed an accredited school of surgical technology but has not, as of the date of hire, obtained the certified surgical technologist certification, provided that such certification shall be obtained within 12 months of the graduation date;
  • Been employed as a surgical technologist in a surgical facility on July 1, 2012;
  • Successfully completed a training program for surgical technology in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States or in the United States Public Health Service; or
  • Is performing surgical technology tasks or functions in the service of the federal government, but only to the extent the person is performing duties related to that service.

The bill also allows for a surgical technologist to assist in the performance of operating room circulator duties under the direct supervision of the operating room circulator if the circulator is present in the operating room for the duration of the procedure, the circulator assigns the assistance to the surgical technologist, and the assistance is consistent with the education, training and experience of the surgical technologist.

A surgical technologist certification bill was originally considered by the Massachusetts legislature in 2009. While this bill contained language supported by both AORN and the Association of Surgical Technologists, it failed to pass. A second certification bill was introduced in 2011 by Senator Brewer. In November of that year, the bill was amended by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Senate Bill 2058 was passed by the House and the Senate in October and December of 2012 before it was sent to Governor Patrick.

Over the next few months, specific rules will be written by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health regarding the practice of surgical technology.The law will go into effect on July 1, 2013 and the regulations must be adopted no later than 90 days after. AORN Government Affairs and its Massachusetts lobbyists will be monitoring this process to ensure the promulgation of rules is consistent with the intent of the bill and in the best interests of Massachusetts surgery patients. AORN supports education and certification requirements for allied health care personnel such as surgical technologists as a way to ensure the highest quality patient care for all patients.

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