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Surgeon Assistant: Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a surgeon assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Surgical assistants must exercise masterful precision as they help surgeons in the operating room. There are certificate and associate programs available for aspiring surgeon assistants, though it's important to note that experience in a medical field may be required for admission.

Essential Information

Surgeon assistants or surgical assistants work under the direct supervision of surgeons and can perform advanced tasks, such as closing surgical sites, removing tissue, inserting IVs and more. While surgical assisting programs are often offered at community colleges in the form of associate's degrees or certificates, these programs have strict admission requirements that include previous experience in the healthcare field or licensure in related health careers. Graduate-level programs are also available. These professionals must meet certification requirements.

Required Education Completion of an accredited training program in surgical assisting
Program Prerequisites Entry into these programs is limited to medical and healthcare professionals with prior certification or students with undergraduate degrees
Certification Requirements Certification as a Certified Surgical First Assistant or Certified Surgical Assistant
Median Salary (2016)* $54,301 annually

Source: *PayScale.com

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Surgeon Assistant Career Information

Surgeon assistants are medical professionals who work closely with surgeons. Job duties typically include retracting tissue and organs, ligating and cutting tissue, inserting tubes, dissecting femoral arteries and resuscitating patients when necessary. These assistants move patients, prepare equipment prior to surgery, remove casts and insert catheters while under the direct supervision of surgeons. Surgeon assistants can work in a variety of surgical fields, such as general surgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery or trauma surgery.

Salary Information

PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that surgical assistants earned a median annual salary of $54,301. Most surgical assistants earned between $35,009 and $88,520 in that same time period.

Educational Information

Training programs for surgical assistants take about one to two years to complete and often result in a certificate or associate's degree. These programs generally require applicants to have a degree or certificate in a healthcare field, certification as a health professional and coursework in such topics as microbiology, anatomy and pathophysiology. Students with bachelor's degrees but no prior healthcare experience or certifications can also find master's degree or post-baccalaureate certificate programs in this field that prepare them for credentialing exams.

These programs cover treatment methods, surgical procedures and patient evaluation. Students learn how to handle tissue, make sutures and communicate with patients.

Certification Information

Surgical assistants can choose from two different credentials. The Certified Surgical Assistant credential is offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants. Students who complete an approved surgical assisting program are eligible to take the exam. The exam is also open to doctors, registered nurses and physician assistants who meet certain requirements.

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers the Certified Surgical First Assistant credential. Students who complete a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) are eligible to take the exam.

Relevant work experience and completion of a training program are required for every surgical assistant. Graduates of surgical assisting programs may pursue certification, which can improve career prospects.

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