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Career profile Surgical Assistant

Also known as Certified First Assistant (CFA), Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA), Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA), Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA), Certified Surgical Technician, Gastrointestinal Technician (GI Technician), Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA), Surgical First Assistant, Surgical Scrub Technician (Surgical Scrub Tech), Surgical Technician (Surgical Tech)

Surgical Assistant

Also known as Certified First Assistant (CFA), Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA), Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA)

Interests Profile
  • Conventional
  • Social
  • Realistic
Pay Range
$29,130 - $105,690 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading Comprehension
Knowledge Areas
  • Medicine and Dentistry
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Biology
Core tasks
  • Verify the identity of patient or operative site.
  • Monitor and maintain aseptic technique throughout procedures.
  • Cover patients with surgical drapes to create and maintain a sterile operative field.
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What does a Surgical Assistant do?

Surgical Assistants assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons.

In addition, Surgical Assistants may, in accordance with state laws, help surgeons to make incisions and close surgical sites, manipulate or remove tissues, implant surgical devices or drains, suction the surgical site, place catheters, clamp or cauterize vessels or tissue, and apply dressings to surgical site.

What kind of tasks does a Surgical Assistant perform regularly?

Surgical Assistants are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Verify the identity of patient or operative site.
  • Monitor and maintain aseptic technique throughout procedures.
  • Cover patients with surgical drapes to create and maintain a sterile operative field.
  • Coordinate or participate in the positioning of patients, using body stabilizing equipment or protective padding to provide appropriate exposure for the procedure or to protect against nerve damage or circulation impairment.
  • Maintain an unobstructed operative field, using surgical retractors, sponges, or suctioning and irrigating equipment.
  • Prepare and apply sterile wound dressings.
  • Apply sutures, staples, clips, or other materials to close skin, facia, or subcutaneous wound layers.
  • Determine availability of necessary equipment or supplies for operative procedures.
  • Discuss with surgeon the nature of the surgical procedure, including operative consent, methods of operative exposure, diagnostic or laboratory data, or patient-advanced directives or other needs.
  • Clamp, ligate, or cauterize blood vessels to control bleeding during surgical entry, using hemostatic clamps, suture ligatures, or electrocautery equipment.
  • Assess skin integrity or other body conditions upon completion of the procedure to determine if damage has occurred from body positioning.
  • Assist with patient resuscitation during cardiac arrest or other life-threatening events.
  • Operate sterilizing devices.
  • Obtain or inspect sterile or non-sterile surgical equipment, instruments, or supplies.
  • Pass instruments or supplies to surgeon during procedure.
  • Monitor patient intra-operative status, including patient position, vital signs, or volume and color of blood.
  • Assist in the insertion, positioning, or suturing of closed-wound drainage systems.
  • Gather, arrange, or assemble instruments or supplies.
  • Assist members of surgical team with gowning or gloving.
  • Coordinate with anesthesia personnel to maintain patient temperature.
  • Adjust and maintain operating room temperature, humidity, or lighting, according to surgeon's specifications.
  • Transport patients to operating room.
  • Assist in applying casts, splints, braces, or similar devices.

The above responsibilities are specific to Surgical Assistants. More generally, Surgical Assistants are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

What is a Surgical Assistant salary?

The median salary for a Surgical Assistant is $51,840, and the average salary is $60,900. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Surgical Assistant salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Surgical Assistants earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Surgical Assistants earn less than $29,130 per year, 25% earn less than $36,840, 75% earn less than $76,860, and 90% earn less than $105,690.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Surgical Assistants is expected to change by 10.4%, and there should be roughly 6,900 open positions for Surgical Assistants every year.

Median annual salary
$51,840
Typical salary range
$29,130 - $105,690
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
10.4%

What personality traits are common among Surgical Assistants?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Surgical Assistant are usually higher in their Conventional, Social, and Realistic interests.

Surgical Assistants typically have very strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Also, Surgical Assistants typically have strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Lastly, Surgical Assistants typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Surgical Assistant tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Support.

Most importantly, Surgical Assistants very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Surgical Assistants moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Surgical Assistants moderately value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Surgical Assistants must consistently demonstrate qualities such as self-control, dependability, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Surgical Assistants, ranked by importance:

Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.

What education and training do Surgical Assistants need?

Surgical Assistants often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Surgical Assistants usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Surgical Assistants

  • 1.0% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 5.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 12.0% completed some college coursework
  • 8.4% earned a Associate's degree
  • 34.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 34.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.5% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Surgical Assistants

Surgical Assistants may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as medicine and dentistry, customer and personal service, or biology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Surgical Assistants might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Important Abilities needed by Surgical Assistants

Surgical Assistants must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Surgical Assistants need abilities such as oral comprehension, arm-hand steadiness, and finger dexterity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Surgical Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Arm-Hand Steadiness
The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
Finger Dexterity
The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.

Critical Skills needed by Surgical Assistants

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Surgical Assistants frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and reading comprehension to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Surgical Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.