What is a Licensed Surgical Assistant?

Surgical Technologist Training

We at Concorde are well aware of the role of the Surgical Technologist. As we teach and train in our Surgical Technologist degree and diploma programs and our new Surgical Technology Degree Completion Program, the surg tech supports physicians, nurses and patients in the operating room preparing sterile fields, passing instruments and assisting the surgeon and patient. It's a career many find exciting, fast-paced and very rewarding. Many Surgical Technologists choose to take the next step in their educations to become Licensed Surgical Assistants. The role of a Surgical Assistant is much like that of a Surgical Technologist, yet also quite different. To discern these differences and similarities, we reached out to some of Concorde's Surgical Technologist Program Directors for their take.

A more hands-on role than a Surgical Technologist

"Surgical assistants are also members of the operating room team," said Brenda McGraw, CST, Surgical Technology Program Director at Concorde's campus in Memphis, Tenn. "These professionals can do all the work that Surgical Technologists do, but they often have a more hands-on role during the procedure." According to McGraw, surgical assistants help surgeons with tasks such as:
  • Sponging
  • Suturing
  • Suctioning
  • Holding retractors
  • Hemostasis (staunching bleeding)
  • Treating wounds
Surgical assistants also are referred to as first assistants or non-physician surgical assistants, McGraw said. Some surgical assistants step into the job after earning a surgical assistant degree from a certified program, while others begin as surgical technologists and receive additional training on the job to work their way up to a first assistant position. Once certified, a surgical assistant can become a certified first assistant (CFA) or certified surgical assistant (CSA). Like CST certification, the certification process for CFAs and CSAs can improve a candidate's resume and open doors for higher paying jobs, McGraw said. "In some institutions, the Surgical Technologist can do everything a surgical first assistant can do, but do not have a certificate or get the increase in salary that a CFA may get," she said.

Becoming certified as a surgical assistant

Nicole Lambert, Surgical Technology Program Director at Concorde's campus in Tampa, Fla., said current nationally-accredited licensed surgical assistant programs range from 10-22 months. Prerequisites typically include:
  • Bachelor of science degree
  • Associate's degree in allied health field with three years' experience
  • CST, CNOR, PA C with current certification
  • Three of current OR experience scrub and/or assisting within the last five years
"In addition to intraoperative duties, the surgical assistant also performs preoperative and postoperative duties to better facilitate proper patient care," Lambert said. "This is a program our (ST) graduates could complete. It shows the potential growth opportunity for our Surgical Technology program." So, dig into that surgical tech training now. It could lead to big things in your future!
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