What Education Is Required to Be a Surgical Assistant?

Read this article to learn about the educational prerequisites for surgical assistant programs and the curriculum included in most such training programs. Review the requirements for certification as a surgical assistant. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education Requirements

Generally, admission to a surgical assistant training program requires you to have already earned a two-year or four-year college degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), training programs in surgical assisting generally last for two years and may be conducted in association with a medical school. The Association of Surgical Assistants (www.surgicalassistant.org) recommends ensuring that your program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Important Facts About Surgical Assistants

Median Salary (2014) $43,350 (for all surgical technologists)
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 30% growth
Work Environment Hospitals, physicians offices that perform outpatient surgery
Similar Occupations Dental assistants, medical assistants, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training and Skills

CAAHEP describes the curriculum of a surgical assistant education program as including instruction in surgical microbiology and pharmacology, anesthesia, surgery's ethical and legal issues, interpersonal skills, computer use, and surgical anatomy. The overall goal is to reinforce and build upon your existing knowledge in operating room procedures.

Licensure and Certification

As of 2015, only a few states required surgical assistants to be licensed, so it's important that you check on your state's regulations. Meanwhile, voluntary certification allows the surgical assistant to demonstrate to employers, co-workers, and patients that he or she has hands-on skills and theoretical knowledge in the essential facets of surgical assisting. According to CAAHEP, surgical assistants can pursue certification through one of two bodies:

National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting confers the certified surgical technologist (CST) credential for graduates of an accredited surgical technology education program. CST-certified individuals who have first assistant work experience or people who have graduated from an accredited surgical assistant program are eligible to obtain the certified first assistant credential.

National Surgical Assistant Association

The National Surgical Assistant Association issues the certified surgical assistant credential. This requires graduation from one of 11 NSAA-approved training programs, appropriate military training, or completion of another healthcare program, such as a registered nurse, physician assistant, Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) program, plus relevant experience.

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