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Surgical Assistant

Education and Training : Bachelor of science degree, surgical assisting training program
Average Salary : $75,000
Job Outlook : Good

Surgical assistants perform many basic surgical tasks to help the surgeon focus on the more delicate and highly technical aspects of surgery. Surgical assistants aid surgeons in exposure, closure, hemostasis and various other tasks that help surgeons do their work safely and increase the chance of a successful operation. Surgical assistants may be called upon to insert tubes, apply dressings to wounds, monitor electronic equipment, help resuscitate patients, etc., all at the direction of the surgeon who they are working under.

Surgical assistants also perform important duties before and after operations, such as selecting the equipment needed for a procedure and ensuring that it is sterile, placing charts and x-rays nearby for quick reference, monitoring patients’ wound dressings and condition after surgery and more. Surgical assistants often interview patients before and after surgery, compiling data about health history, results, and more.

Education and Training Requirements

Surgical assistants need a firm grounding in science and biology and must take licensing tests before being allowed to work.

Surgical assistants typically have a four-year degree in science, nursing, physician assisting or a related field and also complete a 10 to 22 month training course. Surgical assistants must have either the Certified First Assistant or Certified Surgical Assistant credential.

Getting the Job

Surgical assistants looking for a job would be advised to consult with professional groups such as the Association of Surgical Assistants or by checking online medical job sites. Many surgical assistants get their first jobs out of college through internship programs.

Surgical assistants should make sure they have their college transcripts and documentation of their certification ready to include with resumes and other information sent to potential employers.

Because cleanliness is an important part of surgical assistant work, job applicants should maintain good personal hygiene.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Like most medical-related fields, the demand for surgical assistants is expected to grow as an aging population and continually developing medical technology increase the number of surgeries performed each year. Surgical assistants will typically be able to find work just about anywhere in the country, although salary can vary in different areas.

Working Conditions and Environment

Surgical assistants typically work in hospitals and may need to be on their feet for hours at a time as they assist surgeons during procedures. Surgical assistants should also have the physical strength to carry light loads and help lift and position patients.

The work week is a typical 40-hour shift, but this week may be divided up into 10 or more hour shifts, and weekend and holiday work may be necessary. Surgical assistants must be able to work under pressure, make quick decisions, manage to work through personal conflicts and make precision and cleanliness a top priority.

Salary and Benefits

Surgical assistants typically make between $66,382 and $103,321 per year. Surgical assistants with a master’s degree typically earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Depending on where they work, benefits can differ, but most surgical assistants get health insurance coverage, life insurance, professional liability coverage and retirement benefits as part of their employment.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Surgical Assistants
6 West Dry Creek Circle, Ste. 200
Littleton, CO 80120
(800) 637-7433

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
Subcommittee on Accreditation for Surgical Assisting
6 West Dry Creek Circle, Ste. 110
Littleton, CO 80120
(303) 694-9262

National Surgical Assistant Association
2615 Amesbury Rd.
Winston Salem, NC 27103
(888) 633-0479

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