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MA Surgical Technologist Rules Finalized

Publish Date: September 1, 2014


In December 2012 the Massachusetts Governor signed Senate bill 2058, which defined a variety of terms including “surgical technologist”, “surgical technology” and “operating room circulator” in Massachusetts law and set 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.”

The law prohibits hospitals and clinics 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 Massachusetts Department of Public Health was tasked with writing specific rules for surgical technology, and started working on those in early 2013. AORN members and AORN’s Massachusetts lobbyists diligently monitored the progress of the rulemaking, and when the proposed rules came out in late 2013, AORN submitted comments to the Department of Public Health highlighting inconsistencies in the waiver language that could have allowed hospitals and clinics to use surgical technologists to circulate in rare circumstances.

In late August 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health filed new regulations with the Secretary of State, which took into account AORN’s recommended changes to the waiver language. Consistent with the 2012 law, the waiver language now states that a clinic or hospital may employ a surgical technologist who does not meet the certification requirements if it has made a diligent and thorough effort to employ certified surgical technologists but is unable to employ enough qualified surgical technologists for its needs. The waiver applies to surgical technologist functions and cannot be used to allow surgical technologists to serve as operating room circulators.