According to the American Medical Association’s Healthcare Careers Directory 2009-2010, surgical first assistants are advanced allied healthcare practitioners who “provide aid in exposure, hemostasis, wound closure, and other intraoperative technical functions that help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the surgical patient. The surgical first assistant performs these functions under the direction and supervision of the surgeon and in accordance with hospital policy and appropriate laws and regulations.”
In their official Statements on Principles, The American College of Surgeons (ACS) describes the role and function of the surgical first assistant as follows:
The first assistant during a surgical operation should be a trained individual who is able to participate in and actively assist the surgeon in completing the operation safely and expeditiously by helping to provide exposure, maintain hemostasis, and serve other technical functions. The qualifications of the person in this role may vary with the nature of the operation, the surgical specialty, and the type of hospital or ambulatory surgical facility.
The American College of Surgeons supports the concept that, ideally, the first assistant at the operating table should be a qualified surgeon or a resident in an approved surgical education program. Residents at appropriate levels of training should be provided with opportunities to assist and participate in operations. If such assistants are not available, other physicians who are experienced in assisting may participate.
It may be necessary to utilize nonphysicians as first assistants. Surgeon’s assistants (SAs) or physician’s assistants (PAs) with additional surgical training should meet national standards and be credentialed by the appropriate local authority…
Sugical first assistants are used on a wide variety of surgical cases and work across a broad spectrum of surgical specialties. Many opportunities exist for surgical first assistants to specialize in areas such as cardiothoracic, neurosurgical, orthopedic, peripheral vascular, and other branches of surgery. The majority of surgical first assistants work in hospitals. Many others work for private physicians or surgical specialty groups, for private surgical first assistant groups, and a number are self-employed. Click here for a list of hospitals that employ surgical assistants.