Air Force Field: Surgical Service (4N1X1)

They're Not Doctors, but Surgical Techs Are Important in the OR

Surgeon adjusting glove in operating room
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Surgical Service specialists are key to making sure all Air Force personnel receive top-notch surgical care. Though they're not surgeons, these Airmen assist with all aspects of surgery, including prepping patients, organizing surgical equipment, and overseeing patient records.

Their presence in the operating and recovery rooms can be reassuring and comforting to injured or sick Airmen, and Air Force medical professionals rely on surgical service specialists to keep things running smoothly before, during and after surgery and other medical procedures. 

This field is under Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) 4N1X1. 

Qualifying for the Air Force Surgical Service

You'll need a high school diploma or its equivalent, and 15 college credits to be eligible for this role. A basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, the ability to stand for long periods of time and a record free of emotional instability are also required to be a surgical specialist. And you need to be between the ages of 17 and 39. 

You'll complete 7.5 weeks of basic military training and complete Airmen's Week before attending technical school at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. 

Like all Air Force recruits, you'll need to score at least a 36 on the 99-point Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) which is also known as the Armed Forces Qualifications Test Score, or AFQT.

To qualify for this particular field, you'll need a combined score of at least 44 on the arithmetic reasoning (AR) and verbal expression (VE) segments of the ASVAB. 

And you need to be between the ages of 17 and 39. 

Duties of AFSC 4N1X1

All Air Force surgical service specialists (also referred to as "surgical techs" or just "scrubs") will be responsible for maintaining surgical equipment and overall patient prep. They may assist the anesthesiologist when a patient has to be anesthetized for a procedure.

Surgical service specialists keep track of all the pieces of surgical equipment used in the operating room, and help surgeons and nurses put on sterile clothing such as gowns and gloves.

Specialized Air Force Surgical Techs

There are several specializations within the Air Force surgical service, for instance, 4N1X1B has a concentration in urology; 4N1X1C works in orthopedics and 4N1X1D works with otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors).  As one might imagine, the different specialties have varied duties. 

Ear, nose and throat surgical techs may administer local anesthetic (general anesthetic is given by a qualified anesthesiologist), and give patients hearing and inner-ear function tests. Part of their job may involve helping to create ear mold impressions to fit patients for hearing aids.

Urology scrubs will apply catheters to patients and administer injections and intravesical medications. Orthopedic surgical techs may apply and remove splints or casts from patients and may be tasked with helping patients adjust to using devices like crutches or canes. They're also responsible for applying orthopedic traction devices to patients.

Career Prospects for Air Force Surgical Techs

These Airmen will be well-positioned for post-military careers as operating room assistants or surgical technologists ​and have the training and foundation to pursue further medical training if they wish.