What is a Surgical Assistant?
A surgical assistant, also referred to as a first assistant or surgical technologist, is a healthcare professional who provide assistance to surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other staff members in the operating room. Some specialize in specific areas such as cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, or obstetric surgery. Individuals aspiring to become surgical assistants complete training in a health care field and a surgical assisting program.
Surgical Assistant Duties
A surgical assistant performs a variety of tasks before, during, and after surgical procedures. Prior to surgical procedures, a surgical assistant prepares operating rooms, preps patients, and obtains and tests equipment needed for the operation. During procedures, he or she assists surgeons by maintaining a sterile environment, handing over instruments, and applying bandages. After a surgical procedure, a surgical assistant often monitors patients during the post-operation recovery period.
Surgical Assistant Training
Training to become a surgical assistant generally takes one to two years to complete, as many institutions of higher learning offer certificate and associate degree programs. The programs provide intensive classroom and hands-on training. Course topics required by the programs often include anatomy and physiology, surgical assisting procedures, pharmacology, surgical pathophysiology, medical ethics, and patient care. Majority of surgical assistant programs require students to have a prior degree in a related field such as a Bachelor of Science or an associate’s degree with at least three years of related work experience. Military surgery experience or prior certification may also be suitable for some programs. Students are also required to carry liability insurance and be certified in CPR. Majority of employers prefer individuals who have completed a program from an institution that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or the CAAHEP. Programs accredited by the CAAHEP usually range from 10 to 22 months.
Students who have completed surgical assistant training programs are prepared to obtain professional certification. This certification is optional, but a lot of employers prefer it. In general, there is no single credential at the national level, but various organizations offer many options such as the American Board of Surgical Assistants’ Surgical Assistant-Certified or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting’s Certified Surgical First Assistant. Many certification programs require surgical assistants to complete regular continuing education to maintain their certifications and stay up to date on emerging surgical practices and other developments in the medical field.