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RN to Surgical First Assistant Program Information

Read about programs that prepare registered nurses to become surgical first assistants. Find out what's required to enroll in these programs and what kind of classroom and clinical work they include. Get career information for surgical first assistants.

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Essential Information

A registered nurse (RN) is someone who treats patients, administers medications and assists in the performance of diagnostic tests within hospitals or medical facilities. A surgical first assistant works directly under the supervision of a licensed surgeon, controlling blood flow and assisting in duties related to surgeries. An RN can become a surgical first assistant by enrolling in an RN to First Assistant (RNFA) program. Community colleges and 4-year universities typically offer RNFA programs.

These educational options are designed specifically for licensed registered nurses who are interested in working as part of a surgical unit and becoming a first assistant in a hospital setting. The primary goal is to provide students with an educational and clinical understanding of surgical anatomy and surgical procedures. Some schools allow registered nurses to take the seminar portions of the degree program via online classes to work around their busy schedules. However, clinical experience hours must be completed in person. Professional certification may be obtained by passing the examinations of nursing and surgical assisting organizations.

Education Prerequisites

Individuals interested in enrolling in a bridge program from RN to surgical first assistant must first be licensed and practicing registered nurses. To become a registered nurse, individuals must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or nursing diploma program. They must also pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Program Coursework

An RNFA program builds upon the patient care skills and knowledge that registered nurses already possess while adding on surgical skills and surgical procedures. Clinical hours are spent tying surgical knots, suctioning, identifying surgical instruments, suturing, positioning patients and prepping candidates for surgery.

Some course topics that might be featured in such a program are:

  • Surgical anatomy
  • Surgical procedures
  • Surgical instrumentation
  • Perioperative management of patients
  • Infection control and epidemiology
  • Surgical hazards
  • Nursing as foundation for practice

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specifically related to the role of surgical first assistant, it did report that surgical technologists in general held roughly 97,150 jobs across the country as of 2012. The BLS also reported that surgical technologists earned $41,790 as a median annual salary in 2012.

Certification Options

An individual who has completed an RNFA program can gain certification from organizations such as the Association of Operative Registered Nurses (AORN). They can also gain certification through the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA).

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