How to become a surgical technician first assistant

Written by kay daniels
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A certified surgical technologist first assistant (CSTFA), sometimes simply called a surgical assistant, is an advanced surgical technician (technologist). Certified surgical technicians (CSTs) prepare the operating room and sterilise instruments before surgery, but surgical technician first assistants provide more direct assistance to the surgeon during surgery. It is possible to enter the profession as a surgical technician first assistant by attending an accredited surgical assisting program. You may need to have health care experience to be eligible, but it is also possible to start as a CST and seek on-the-job education and certification.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Accredited surgical assisting program diploma, or
  • Certification as a surgical technologist

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  1. 1

    Locate an accredited surgical assisting educational program and examine the prerequisites. Note that you may need to already be a CST, a registered nurse or have similar equivalent health care experience to be eligible. If you decide to train via an educational program, you will need to pick a program that is accredited by CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs). You can search on the CAAHEP site to find one in your area (see Resources).

  2. 2

    Complete any necessary prerequisites and then apply to the program. In addition to having a medical background, you will also need to take anatomy and physiology and have a current CPR certification.

  3. 3

    Graduate from the surgical assisting educational training program.

  4. 4

    Apply to take the surgical first assistant certification exam offered by NBSTSA (see Resources). You will have to show proof of graduation, fill out an application, and pay the application fee.

  5. 5

    Pass the certification exam, and then check your state's requirements to determine whether you need to file additional paperwork for licensing with your state board of health.

  6. 6

    Renew your certification every four years by retaking the certification exam or submitting evidence of the required number of continuing education units.

  1. 1

    Maintain active certification as a CST (Certified Surgical Technologist).

  2. 2

    Find employment as a CST and note to your employer that you wish to train to become a first assistant. You will need to complete at least 350 cases and have two full years of experience acting in a first assistant role before you will be eligible to take an exam. Do not expect your employer to put you directly into a first assistant role right away; you will likely need a good track record in the surgical technician role first.

  3. 3

    Apply to take the first assistant certifying exam offered by NBSTSA. You will need to show evidence of your CST certification and submit two notarised forms testifying to your completion of the required on-the-job experience. The forms will need to be signed by two different surgeons or surgical supervisors.

  4. 4

    Pass the certifying exam.

  5. 5

    Complete any licensing paperwork required by your state board of health, and renew your certification every four years by retaking the certification exam or submitting evidence of continuing education.

Tips and warnings

  • Always verify the accreditation status of any health-related educational program you are considering; using a non-accredited program will lead to your being ineligible for certification and licensing.

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