Surgical Assisting

What does a surgical assistant do?


(Note: This is a recommended guideline to follow in creation of a facility-specific job description and not a job description in and of itself.)

 The Standards and Guidelines for the Accreditation of Educational Programs in Surgical Assisting have been approved by the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA), American College of Surgeons (ACS), Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology (ARC/STSA), Subcommittee on Accreditation for Surgical Assisting (SASA), and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and include this description of the profession of surgical assisting:

 As defined by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), surgical assistants provide aid in exposure, hemostasis, closure, and other intraoperative technical functions that help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the patient. In addition to intraoperative duties, the surgical assistant also performs preoperative and postoperative duties to better facilitate proper patient care. The surgical assistant performs these functions under the direction and supervision of the surgeon and in accordance with hospital policy and appropriate laws and regulations.

The American College of Surgeons strongly supports adequate education and training of all surgical assistants, supports the accreditation of all surgical assisting educational programs, and supports examination for certification of all graduates of accredited surgical assistant educational programs.

 The Association of Surgical Assistants recommends that surgical assistants graduate from surgical assisting programs accredited by CAAHEP through ARC/STSA, which is a collaborative effort of AST, ACS, and SASA. CAAHEP is a recognized accreditation agency of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In addition, surgical assisting programs may be offered through independently operated facilities or educational institutions and are accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), The Joint Commission, or a state agency acceptable to CAAHEP and the ARC/STSA. The ARC/STSA is also a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).  

 Surgical assisting programs offer various educational pathways. Students may earn a certificate, an advanced technical diploma, or an associate degree depending on the program attended. Definitive curriculum is dependent on program attended. Standard courses covered are:

 General Overview of Courses Include:

General Overview of Courses Include:

  • Principles of Surgical Assisting
  • General Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Surgical Assisting Internships
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Surgical Pathophysiology


Certification is conferred by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA), and American Board of Surgical Assistants (ABSA). Initial certification as a Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA), Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA), and Surgical Assistant-Certified (SA-C) is based upon satisfactory performance on the national certifying examination from each organization’s credentialing body, following completion of an accredited program in surgical assisting or another pathway acceptable to the NBSTSA, NSAA and ABSA. CSFAs maintain their certification by earning 75 hours of approved continuing education in a four-year period or by successfully retaking the certifying examination at the conclusion of the four-year period. CSAs maintain their certification by earning 50 continuing education units every two years or successfully retaking the certification examination at the conclusion of the two-year period. SA-Cs maintain their certification by earning 80 recertification points and 400 clinical surgical cases or 1500 clinical surgical hours every two years or by retaking the recertification examination at the conclusion of the two-year period.

 The NBSTSA’s certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation division of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) and is in compliance with NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. The NSAA and the ABSA provide national certifying examinations and credentialing within the structure of each of the organizations.

 The Association of Surgical Assistants represents surgical assistants who carry the title of Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA), Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA), and Surgical Assistant-Certified (SA-C).

 ASA was founded in 1996 and its current partner organization, AST was formed in 1969 with the support of the American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN). ASA and AST represent the interests of over 5,000 surgical assistants.

 ASA also works with ARC/STSA and NBSTSA to set standards for education and certification and represents the profession at state and national levels to ensure that all surgical assistants attain the Certified Surgical First Assistant credential as a condition of employment. ASA is a membership organization.

 ASA Mission Statement
The Association of Surgical Assistants represents a broad coalition of surgical assistant practitioners, who shares several common goals including optimizing surgical patient care, promoting the recognition of all surgical assistants, advancing legislative strategies and providing relevant continuing education experiences.

The surgical assistant is responsible for assisting the surgeon under direct and indirect supervision throughout preoperative, intraoperative, and post-operative duties and procedures at all times.

 1. Preoperative
The surgical assistant facilitates the safe positioning of the patient according to the surgeon’s preference, patient’s anatomical and physiological limits, and surgical procedure to be performed. A preoperative introduction visit may be done to assess the surgical site to better aid in positioning. Assists circulator and anesthesia provider in preparation of the patient to include but not limited to: Foley catheter placement, tourniquet application, placement of intravenous catheters, cricoid pressure application, and other procedures as needed.

 2. Intraoperative
The surgical assistant performs specific tasks according to individual surgeon preference utilizing appropriate techniques including, but not limited to: incision and layered closure of surgical sites, providing exposure, achieving hemostasis by means of injection, manual, and topical methods, and application of appropriate energy sources, manipulation and dissection/removal of tissues, aides in implanting, securing, and/or removal of devices and drains, and applying appropriate dressing material specific to procedure. 

3. Postoperative
The surgical assistant applies any other specific dressing material such as splints or casts, assesses skin integrity, assists in transfer of the patient, and follows the patient to recovery if needed or directed by surgeon. 

4. Specialty Procedures
The surgical assistant who has appropriate training also performs under surgeon supervision other procedures including but not limited to: vein and graft harvesting, and graft and implant preparation.

 5. Additional Duties
The surgical assistant performs additional duties as delegated by the surgeon in cooperation with state and local policy.

Cigna Reimbursement Opportunity for Florida Surgical Assistants

2018 ASA Fall Meeting Agenda

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