Online Surgical Assistant Training Programs
Learn about prerequisites and online options for surgical assisting training. Discover certification and licensure requirements for working as a surgical assistant.
How Do I Complete a Surgical Assistant Program Online?
Both the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredit surgical assistant programs. You can earn your surgical assistant certificate in a hybrid online and in-person format from schools accredited by the CAAHEP. The first step of these programs is to complete the classroom portion of your training. Then, you will complete lab and practical experiences. The academic portion of the training is typically available completely online. You can expect to cover topics like pharmacology, anesthesia and operating room procedures.
You can apply what you learned in classes to simulated surgical experiences. This practice phase, which usually lasts six days, might be performed on pigs. There may be alternative options for completing this portion of the program, but you will need to check with the program prior to enrolling. You will likely be required to travel to the school to complete the lab work in-person. However, some programs may allow you to videotape your lab experience at your current place of employment and send it to the school.
The final portion of your training is the clinical experience. This is completed in a surgical setting, usually where you're currently employed, with a surgeon or surgical assistant overseeing your work. You will be required to complete a certain number of practical hours or a specific number of cases, depending on program requirements. There may be certain surgical areas you are required to assist in, like orthopedic, endoscopic, pediatric, reconstructive or trauma surgery.
|Training Components||Lab and practical in-person experience, online coursework, simulated surgical experiences, clinical experience|
|Admission Requirements||Vary by program, may be required to take certain classes or already have some working experience in a hospital environment|
|Career Requirements||The NBSTSA and NSAA both offer certifying exams; licensure requirements vary by state|
|Median Salary (2018)||$47,300 (for all surgical technologists)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||12% growth (for all surgical technologists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Are There Any Prerequisites?
Specific entrance requirements vary by program and may require applicants to be a certified surgical technologist (CST), certified nurse-operating room or have some form of documented surgical assisting experience. One school requires all applicants, regardless of other qualifications, to have U.S.-based operating room scrub experience. Another school requires all applicants who did not graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited surgical tech program to take relevant college-level classes like pathophysiology and anatomy.
Prior to admission to the program, you will likely need a written agreement from the surgeon or surgical assistant who will oversee your clinical experience. In addition to being willing to supervise you, this individual may be required to meet certain program requirements. This may include meeting a minimum number of years practicing as a surgeon and a minimum number of surgical cases completed in the last year in addition to demonstrating a willingness to evaluate and instruct you.
Will I Need Certification or Licensure?
If you graduate from a program that meets the right criteria, you can then sit for either of the certification examinations offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA). According to the NBSTSA, you must either be a currently certified surgical technologist or graduate from a CAAHEP or ABHES-accredited program in order to sit for its exam. The NSAA says that you can sit for its exam if you attend a program that is NSAA approved. You can hold certifications from either or both certification organizations.
According to the American College of Surgeons, surgical assistants are subject to local regulation. For example, states like Kentucky and Texas require licensure for surgical assistants. In these states, NBSTSA or NSAA certification is a requirement for licensure. Some states refer to the NBSTSA as the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist, which is a former name for the organization. You may need to check with your state's medical board to ensure that you will meet licensure requirements if necessary.