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A surgical first assistant works in the operating room during surgery. This person is also called a surgical assistant or just a “first assistant.” They think ahead about what the surgical team will need and help the surgeon with things like choosing equipment, holding open incisions, stopping bleeding, and closing the incision, among many other technical tasks, during an operation.
They are advanced allied health professionals who help with exposure, wound closure, stopping bleeding, and other technical tasks during surgery that helps the surgeon do a safe procedure with the best possible results for the patient. The surgical assistant does these things under the direction and supervision of the surgeon and in accordance with the rules of the hospital and any laws or rules that apply.
They work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other health care professionals. They spend a lot of time with people of all ages. They have jobs to do before, during, and after an operation.
Some of the most common jobs and duties of a surgical first assistant are:
Even though they do similar things, the roles of surgical technologists and surgical first assistants are different. A surgical technologist is in charge of the tools used in surgery, keeping the sterile field clean, and setting up the operating room. The main job of a surgical first assistant is to help the surgeon during surgery. Surgical assistants, surgical technologists, and surgical nurse may have different tasks, depending on the facility.
This job is needed in almost every kind of specialty surgery. Depending on the institution or hospital, a surgical first assistant may help with:
Surgical first assistants work either during the day or in the evening, and they may be on call overnight or on the weekends. During a shift, you have to be on your feet for a long time if you have this job.
Many employers may look for surgical first assistants who can work well under pressure, pay close attention to details, and are willing to keep learning about new surgical techniques and procedures.
Accreditation from the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA), a group made up of the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA), the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Subcommittee on Accreditation for Surgical Assisting (SASA), and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), is a sign of a good surgical assisting program.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes CAAHEP as an accreditation agency. Also, surgical assisting programs are part of educational centers that are institutionally accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), The Joint Commission, or a state agency acceptable to CAAHEP and the ARC/STSA.
Go to the CAAHEP website and do a search to find an accredited program. This will help you find a program that will teach you how to become a surgical assistant. The length of the programs that are currently approved by CAAHEP is between 12 and 24 months. Surgical assisting is a specialty job that requires more than just a degree in science or a health profession. It also needs training in specific skills. Graduates of a CAAHEP-approved program can take the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA) national certification exams.
Different first aid training programs have different requirements for getting in. Some of the most common education requirements and prerequisites after high school or the equivalent are:
Bachelor’s degree in a health-related science or an associate’s degree in a field related to health
Specific courses in human anatomy, basic sciences, or microbiology
It can be hard to get into some of the educational programs; make your resume better by:
gaining experience in the health care field through jobs like certified nursing assistant (CNA), phlebotomy, surgical core technician, emergency medical technician (EMT), or other allied health positions.
Getting CPR/BLS certification and keeping it up-to-date
Helping out in hospitals, nursing homes, or other healthcare settings as a volunteer
Participating in team-based activities, such as sports or groups that work together,
Most employers also want you to be certified by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and/or the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants. This is on top of having completed an accredited surgical assistant program (NCCSA). Once they are certified, surgical assistants work under the titles Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA) or Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA).
The average salary for a certified surgical first assistant in the United States is about $48,320. This depends a lot on your experience, qualifications, and where you live.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for health technologists, such as surgical first assistants, will grow by more than 9% between 2010 and 2030. As medical technology improves and the number of people who need surgery grows, the demand for certified surgical assistants will rise across the country.
Before becoming a surgical first assistant, many people work as surgical technologists, or “surgical techs.” To become a surgical first assistant, a surgical technologist would need to have several years of experience in the operating room, meet the prerequisites and educational requirements to apply to and complete an accredited surgical first assistant program, and then pass the exam to become a certified surgical first assistant (CSFA).
From surgical first assistant to physician assistant or registered nurse: It’s not easy to go from surgical first assistant to physician assistant or registered nurse. To become a physician assistant or registered nurse, a surgical assistant would first need to make sure they have the right education and prerequisites to go to a program for either. After getting a graduate degree and completing a training program, they would need to get any certifications they need to work as a physician assistant or registered nurse.
From surgical first assistant to the surgeon: A surgical first assistant would need a few more years of schooling and training to become a surgeon. But their experience with surgery will help them along the way. Before going to medical school, a surgical first assistant would need to make sure they have the right education and prerequisites. After going to medical school, surgeons have to do a residency and possibly a fellowship for a few years before they can work as surgeons.