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RN to Surgical First Assistant Program Information

Community colleges and 4-year universities typically offer RN to First Assistant (RNFA) programs. An RNFA program builds upon the patient care skills and knowledge that registered nurses already possess while adding on surgical skills and procedures.

Essential Information

RN to First Assistant certificates 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.


Surgical First Assistant Program

A surgical first assistant works directly under the supervision of a licensed surgeon, controlling blood flow and assisting in duties related to surgeries. 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
  • Perioperative management of patients
  • Infection control and epidemiology
  • Surgical hazards
  • Nursing as foundation for practice

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

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 100,270 jobs across the country as of 2015. The BLS also reported that surgical technologists earned $44,330 as a median annual salary in 2015.

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).

RNFA certificates are designed to expand on the skills a registered nurse has already learned to broaden their abilities and increase their employment opportunities. Professional certification is also available after completing the program.


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