Becoming a Surgical Assistant??

  1. 1
    hi everyone,

    i am not a nurse but want to become one. however, because just getting into ns can often require more time and effort than completing ns, i was looking into becoming a surgical assistant. unfortunately, there are zero surgical assistant programs accredited by the ama in my area. but i was surpised to learn that there a a good number of hybrid (online) programs out there. and they are fully accredited since they are all listed on the official website of the national board for surgical technology and surgical assisting, which accredits such programs. i've done some google searches to learn more, but i keep finding articles about surgical techs, which are not the same thing.

    i was just wondering if anyone can give me any insight into the job of a surgical assistant? are they in demand? is it harder to become one than an lpn or rn? how does their pay compare to those of nurses? do i need a certificate or degree? also, and this is my most important question, can i become a surgical assistant (or first surigcal assistant) without any formal healthcare education or work experience?

    to avoid confusion, this is the career i was interested in pursuing (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upl...-assistant.pdf ). i did not want anyone to get it confused with surgical technologist.

    thank you!
    tvdipin likes this.

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  2. 14 Comments...

  3. 1
    All of our surgical assistants are either CFAs (STs with further education/certification), RNFAs, NPs, or PAs. Never heard of someone going straight into a program called surgical assistant.
    SandraCVRN likes this.
  4. 0
    So is doing a surgical tech and then a surgical assistant program something I can do? Is it possible to get a job this way, or it it necessary to also be an RN, NP, etc.? Do I need experince working as a ST or can I go stright to SA immediately after becoming an ST?

    Also, what would you say the demand for and the typical pay is for CFAs who are not RNs, NPs, or PAs. Is this a field you would recommend?
  5. 0
    Well, we only have one CFA on staff, but there are 2 surgeons who employ their own. Not sure about the whole ST/SA thing, because the link in your other post talked about both. I know that there are a few states where PAs can give anesthesia with the proper education, maybe this is something similar?
  6. 2
    Quote from Donald11
    So is doing a surgical tech and then a surgical assistant program something I can do? Is it possible to get a job this way, or it it necessary to also be an RN, NP, etc.? Do I need experince working as a ST or can I go stright to SA immediately after becoming an ST?

    Also, what would you say the demand for and the typical pay is for CFAs who are not RNs, NPs, or PAs. Is this a field you would recommend?
    Ok I am currently in CST school getting my associates degree, then going into a first assistant program while getting my BS, then on to PA school. So Ive done a LOT of research so I'll help you out. I chose to go the route I did after enrolling in Nursing school but before I even started I realized nursing was not for me. First of all you cannot just become a first assistant. You have to either become and RN or a Surgical Technologist first. Which one is completly a preference on which field you want to end up in down the road. If you take the ST road, you will first go to a school to become a CST, then you need to find a job as a CST to gain a few months of understanding of the actual OR. Then you can start CFA school. I 150% recomend the Meridian Institue for Surgical Assisting (It is considered to be by far the BEST)
    You apply to the CFA school while you are working as a CST and continue to work as a CST until you receive your CFA accredidation (6-12 months). The CFA school is 3 parts:
    Part one: Online lessons- 13 computer lessons with a final test at the end of each one. You can do these at your own pace, and you must make a 80% on each one.
    Part Two: (The most AWESOME part) you go to Vanderbilt medical school for a 6 day (60 Hr) lab where you perform whole surgeries on live pigs
    Part Three: You complete 135 cases (and have a surgeon sign off on them)
    AND...You are a certifed First Assistant

    Later you can become complete a bachelores degree program and go to PA school but you dont need to, its only if you wanted to do that for personal reasons or to make more money.

    There are both certificate and degree programs out there for CST but they both (if they are accredited) while give you the chance to sit for the certification exam- I recomend the Associates Degree programs simply because it opens up more doors to expand your education later on.

    You can also become a First Assistant through the nursing route if you feel like nursing is the career you really want to be in because becoming an RN does not in anyway guarantee you will end up working in the OR, but if you choose the RN route: you become an RN then go to an accredited RNFA school (I dont know a lot about these) and then if you complete your bachelors you can go on to become an NP (if you wanted to do that)
    The Rn route to FA will definatly take longer

    The salary for a CST or CFA Varies greatly but if you tell me your state I have current charts for both from the Asspciation of Surgical Technologist and First Assistants for 2010

    I hope this was helpful, Sorry for the typos it is 1 Am here and I am very tired
    LovedRN and SandraCVRN like this.
  7. 0
    Thank you SO MUCH KimGau. Good luck on your road to be a PA. I am in New York City (I live in the immediate suburbs). If you can tell me the pay for NYC area CFAs, that would be great. Also, I currently have an unrelated BS degree so while I know it won't help me much, it will allow me not to have to worry about the general ed classes. On top of that, I am taking A&P I online this Sept. from Ocean County CC. Luckily here in NYC, we have lots of hospitals, many of which are world renowned, so I would imagine there is a strong demand for CFAs.

    Also, what is ST school like? Would you rank it easier than nursing school? Do you have to take exams with NCLEX style questions that have more than 1 right answer (but have to choose the best answer)?
    Last edit by Donald11 on Jul 25, '10
  8. 0
    Quote from Donald11
    Thank you SO MUCH KimGau. Good luck on your road to be a PA. I am in New York City (I live in the immediate suburbs). If you can tell me the pay for NYC area CFAs, that would be great. Also, I currently have an unrelated BS degree so while I know it won't help me much, it will allow me not to have to worry about the general ed classes. On top of that, I am taking A&P I online this Sept. from Ocean County CC. Luckily here in NYC, we have lots of hospitals, many of which are world renowned, so I would imagine there is a strong demand for CFAs.

    Also, what is ST school like? Would you rank it easier than nursing school? Do you have to take exams with NCLEX style questions that have more than 1 right answer (but have to choose the best answer)?
    Ok the average salary for a CFA in NYC is going to be 24% higher than other parts of the country. The salary could change by the time you get out of school, but right now it is averaging $70,000 and going up to $110,000. You will have been working as a CST while in CFA school so that OR experience will be beneficial to getting a higher salary. That is great that you dont have to worry about gen-ed classes, I wish I could skip them. I have not gotten far enough into ST school to really give an accurate account of difficulty and it really depends on your school. At my school Nursing and ST are the same amount of time, the same amount of clinicals etc.. so They are pretty equal when it comes to difficulty. I dont know how similar the NCLEX and CST Exams are, but Im sure you can look up practice test for both online. If I had to say from experience I would think the CST exam would have more definitive answers, because you have to retain SO much exact Information. ST school is a LOT of Anatomy. You will have to learn every step for tons of surgeries so that you will know what instruments and supplies to prepare and when the surgeon will need them. My passion is surgery and the OR so it is all very exciting to me. MY best advice to you is to go to the Meridian Institute after CST school. Good Luck! Oh If you dont mind me asking what is your BS in? Im going to be working on a BS in Health Sciences with an emphasis on Biology
  9. 0
    Thanks again. My BS is in legal studies. I know: it's a dumb major. But when I decided on it, I was only 17 and was just a few months out of high school. I'm just curious, did you finish nursing school, or did you transfer to ST? PA is a good profession so you have great goals. My uncle is a family doctor with his own practice and pays his PAs $75 an hour, although I have no idea if that is a representation of the average PA salary. In fact, one time he complained to my father that he knew some PAs who were making MORE than him! So it's definitely a great profession.
  10. 0
    Quote from Donald11
    Thanks again. My BS is in legal studies. I know: it's a dumb major. But when I decided on it, I was only 17 and was just a few months out of high school. I'm just curious, did you finish nursing school, or did you transfer to ST? PA is a good profession so you have great goals. My uncle is a family doctor with his own practice and pays his PAs $75 an hour, although I have no idea if that is a representation of the average PA salary. In fact, one time he complained to my father that he knew some PAs who were making MORE than him! So it's definitely a great profession.
    Legal studies isn't a dumb major. My husband is 29, he got his bachelors in business after high school and then did half of the coursework for his masters. We agreed after I had my bachelors he would start on finishing his masters THEN he deceides he wants to go to law school, lol. I def. did not finish NS lol I didnt even start. I knew I wanted to go into surgery but when I saw how much higher the starting pay was for an RN I changed my mind and enrolled in Nursing School. Well two days before class scheduling they dropped their ASN program and adopted a new 5 year $50,000+ BSN program and thats when I realized I wasnt putting myself into that much debt for a career that I did not want, so I went ahead and transfered my paperwork to the ST program. I dont like the nursing side of it, thats why I chose the PA route Vs. the NP route. I dont ever want to work in a Dr's office as a PA, My passion is in surgery I want to work as a first assistant, but I thought it would be cool to get my MPA just so I could be licensed to round on patients pre- and post-op.
  11. 0
    That stinks your school got rid of the ADN. What you could have done if you wanted to was enroll in the BSN, just did half the program, and then get your ADN degree with Excelsior. I fail to understand why the BSN has become so important. My mother is an RN with just an ADN and has never been truned down for a job for lacking a BSN.

    Also, I was just wondering whether you knew anyhting about the demand for CFAs. From what I see, CFAs is a much smaller profession than nursing and was not sure whether this would make it easier or harder to find a job. While there are only 5,000 surgical assistants, there are over 3 million nurses.


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