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Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) Programs: Training and Schools

A registered nurse first assistant (RNFA) is an RN with advanced training in the skills needed to assist in surgery. Discover where to find an RNFA program, see what you'll learn, and get information on professional certification.

What You Need to Know

An RNFA training program will teach you the advanced medical knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill the role of first assistant to a surgeon in an operating room. These programs require additional hours of clinical practicum experience beyond that of a registered nursing program.

Program Options RNFA Course, Advanced Technical Certificate RNFA Program, RNFA Post-Baccalaureate Program
Training At least 2,400 hours of RNFA work experience required for certification
Schools Some options include Gulf Coast State College, University of Rochester School of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Delaware County Community College

What Does an RNFA Training Program Prepare Me For?

RNFA programs build upon the functions of the perioperative nurse, focusing on advanced surgical anatomy, procedures and techniques. RNFA programs will prepare you to perform intraoperative surgical procedures, such as handling, cutting and removing tissue, using retractors and other surgical instruments, suturing and tying knots, and controlling bleeding. You will be prepared to work in hospitals or surgical centers.

What Will I Learn?

The curriculum for RNFA programs explores pre - and postoperative patient care management, which can help you become proficient in postoperative care and discharge planning. The coursework will teach you to assess the needs of your patients and surgical team. Specific topics explored in an RNFA program include:

  • Wound healing
  • Perioperative management
  • Asepsis and infection control
  • Surgical anatomy and physiology
  • Patient positioning
  • Surgical complications
  • Role of the RNFA

Where Can I Find an RNFA Program?

RNFA programs are offered through accredited nursing programs in community colleges and 4-year institutions. Many of these programs are offered in an online format and require that you visit the campus only for laboratory skills training. Along with your online coursework, most schools also require that you complete a clinical internship in order to develop your surgical skills. The program you choose should be approved by the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN).

In addition to the schools mentioned earlier, other institutions that provide RNFA programs include:

  • The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center
  • Hofstra University
  • University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Columbus State Community College
  • North Carolina A&T State University

How Do I Qualify for an RNFA Program?

RNFA programs are designed for RNs with varying degrees of education, from nurses who hold diplomas to nurses who hold bachelor's degrees (www.rnfa.org). Most schools require that you possess or are working toward the Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) designation, offered by the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). Unless you're an advanced practice nurse, you'll generally need to obtain CNOR certification prior to the completion of your program. Most schools also require that you have at least two years of experience working as a perioperative nurse.

How Do I Get Certified?

To become a certified RNFA (CRNFA), you'll need CNOR certification, an RN license and a bachelor's degree (www.cc-institute.org). You'll also need 2,400 hours of experience working as an RNFA. The experience requirement can be fulfilled through an internship or clinical practicum.