Schools that offer coursework to become a surgical first assistant include the Meridian Institute of Surgical Assisting and the Mayo School of Health Sciences. Professional certifications are available from The National Board for Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Surgical Assistant Association.
Prospective surgical first assistants undergo 10- to 22-month training programs. The prerequisites for these programs include college courses in pathophysiology, microbiology, pharmacology and anatomy. Other typical prerequisites include three years' operating room experience within the previous five years, adequate immunization records and computer literacy. Military medical experience is also helpful.
Surgical first assistant training programs include courses in advanced anatomy, anesthesiology, bioscience, ethics and surgical microbiology. Surgical pharmacology and technical skill training are also fundamental curriculum components. Other areas of focus include medical computing and the treatment of surgical complications.
To practice in the United States, graduates of surgical first assistant training programs must pass a certification exam. Those who pursue a certificate from the National Surgical Assistant Association must first accumulate surgical apprentice experience. The National Board for Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting does not require this.
Surgical first assistants perform a wide variety of tasks. These include securing required equipment for each procedure, inserting urinary catheters and drainage tubes, dressing wounds, and positioning patients. Other common duties include applying surgical drapes, suturing wounds and cauterizing blood vessels.