The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has established and published guidelines for the profession of Surgical First Assisting. Programs which meet these criteria in conjunction with the Core Curriculum for Surgical Assisting published by the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) are able to be reviewed by the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA) and obtain accreditation through CAAHEP, which is the premier accreditation body for allied health education programs. Currently, there are 10 institutions in the United States which offer CAAHEP accredited surgical first assistant training programs with several more currently under review. These programs typically last between 12 and 24 months and most lead to a Certificate of Completion. A list of these programs can be viewed here.
The entrance requirements for admission into a CAAHEP accredited surgical first assistant program vary depending on the institution and the vocational/education background of each student. Non-physician surgical first assistant students and practitioners come from diverse and dynamic backgrounds. Many have past operating room experience and are surgical technologists, operating room nurses, physician assistants, or foreign medical doctors prior to beginning their specialized training. Students with no healthcare experience may enter the field via programs which offer introductory operating room curriculum in addition to core surgical assisting courses of study. Students of accredited programs learn advanced surgical theory such as patient positioning, aseptic technique, operative technique and procedures, and wound closure. Courses offered at these institutions include:
- Advanced Microbiology
- Advanced Pathology
- Surgical Pharmacology
- Anesthesia Methods and Agents
- Role of the surgical assistant in positioning, draping, monitoring the patient, and managing surgical complications and emergencies
- Professional ethics: legal responsibilities, communication, interpersonal skills
- Bioscience: wound management, wound closure, fluid replacement therapy
- Use and application of equipment and supplies
- Clinical rotation completing 135 documented procedures
Upon successful completion of a CAAHEP accredited program, graduates are eligible to take the Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA) examination offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). New practitioners wishing to obtain the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) credential from the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA) or the Surgical Assistant-Certified (SA-C) credential from the American Board of Surgical Assistants (ABSA) may need to complete alternate or additional requirements and should contact these agencies to verify if their school/program has been approved.
For more information, visit the following agencies: