FAQ

GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SURGICAL ASSISTING PROFESSION

Who is a surgical assistant?
Surgical assistants, or surgical first assistants, are surgical team members who function under the direction of the surgeon. According to the American College of surgeons, the surgical first assistant provides aid in exposure, hemostasis, and other technical functions that will help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the patient. For more specific information, refer to Who is a surgical assistant?

Do surgical assistants have credentials?
A surgical can be either a licensed physician (MD, DO, DPM, DDS), a medical/surgical resident, or a nonphysician surgical assistant with any of the following credentials: Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA, PA-C), Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA, CRNFA), Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA, formerly CFA), Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA), or Surgical Assistant-Certified (SA-C).

What education is required to become a surgical assistant?
Since there are several surgical assisting credentials available, please refer to the information under Comparison of Credentials. Click here.

How do I find accredited surgical assisting education programs?
Currently, there are 10 CAAHEP-accredited programs. Many of these facilities offer their courses as distance education and assist with locating facilities for the clinical portion of the program  Click here for their contact information.

Why is certification important?
Certification demonstrates to employers and the public, by examination, that an individual has met a national standard in both theoretical and practical knowledge in a particular field. There are currently three major organizations that certify surgical assistants nationally. The national certification examination for the Certified Surgical First Assistant is sponsored by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). An individual who successfully passes the Certified Surgical First Assistant Examination earns the title, Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA, formerly CFA). The CSFA title from the NBSTSA is the only credential approved and accredited by the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which also accredits Nurse Practitioner, Critical Care Nurse, Medical Technologist, Radiologic Technologist, and other such credentials.

The national certification examination for the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) is sponsored by the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA). An individual who successfully passes this exam earns the title Certified Surgical Assistant..

The national certification examination for the Surgical Assistant-Certified  (SA-C) is sponsored by the American Board of Surgical Assistants (ABSA). An individual who successfully passed the Surgical Assistant-Certified examination earns the title Surgical Assistant-Certified.

Certification is recommended by the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA), the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), NSAA, and ABSA. Certification is required by some employers, as well as state and local legislation in many areas. It is also important to note that the majority of hospitals and other surgical facilities will require certification as a condition of gaining privileges as a surgical assistant at that institution.

Before identifying a specific surgical assistant certification, examine local legislative and facility policies/guidelines. Specific facilities or regions may favor one credential over another.

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