Certified Surgical Assistants

The Non Physician Surgical Assistant is an allied health profession that requires advanced training in surgical first assisting.

The NSAA’s certification examination assures the physician, hospital and patient that the CSA (Certified Surgical Assistant) – performing the duties of the Non Physician Surgical Assistant – has met the highest standards and passed an extensive, comprehensive examination specific to surgical procedures and surgical assisting. The CSA is proficient in the following knowledge and skills:

  • Determines specific equipment needed per procedure.
  • Reviews permit to confirm procedure and any special needs and participates in “time out” sessions prior to surgery.
  • Selection and placement of x-rays for reference.
  • Assists in moving and positioning of patient.
  • Insertion and removal of Foley urinary bladder catheter.
  • Placement of pneumatic tourniquet.
  • Confirms procedure with surgeon.
  • Drapes patient within surgeon's guidelines.
  • Provides retraction of tissue and organs for optimal visualization with regard to tissue type and appropriate retraction instrument and/or technique.
  • Assists in maintaining hemostasis by direct pressure, use of appropriate surgical instrument for the task, placement of ties, placement of suture ligatures, application of chemical hemostatic agents, or other measures as directed by the surgeon.
  • Use of electrocautery mono and bi-polar.
  • Clamp, ligation and cutting of tissue per surgeon's directive.
  • Harvest of saphenous vein and radial artery including skin incision per surgeon’s directive.
  • Dissection of common femoral artery and bifurcation per surgeon's directive.
  • Maintains integrity of sterile field.
  • Closure of wound all layers (fascia, subcutaneous & skin or the equivalent tissue layers) as per surgeon's directive.
  • Insertion of drainage tubes per surgeon's directive.
  • Selection & application of wound dressings.
  • Assists with resuscitation of patient during cardiac arrest or other life threatening events in the operating room.
  • Any other duties or procedures deemed necessary and directed by the surgeon.

In addition to the basic knowledge and training for the Non Physician Surgical Assistant, the NSAA CSA must:

  • possess a working knowledge of all operating room procedures with respect to attire, infection control, and is familiar with individual requirements and recommended practices of compliance.
  • accept responsibility for his/her integrity with respect to maintenance and compliance, to and of these policies.
  • have the ability to anticipate the needs of the surgeon, and other team members, with respect to the requirements of a particular surgical procedure.
  • be able to demonstrate and maintain dexterity sufficient to successful completion of his/her assistant duties on each particular procedure.
  • maintain a professional attitude with respect to the dignity, privacy, and safety of the patient.
  • possess the ability to only function within the limits of his/her ability, and within the scope of practice set forth by the medical facility.

Education and Training

The Surgical Assistant comes from a variety of disciplines including Military training, formal surgical assistant programs at universities and colleges, hospital based formal assisting programs, nursing surgical assisting specialty programs, and physician assistant surgical assisting specialty programs. Additionally, foreign trained medical doctors with surgical training often chose to work in the field of Surgical Assisting.

CAAHEP (Council for Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) has approved standards for Surgical Assisting Educational programs—standards that were approved by NSAA and the American College of Surgeons. Schools/programs meeting these standards provide excellent venues for training the Surgical Assistant.

Surgical Assisting is a specialty profession that requires specific training over and above a degree in science, nursing, physician assisting, and more. Additionally, the National Surgical Assistant Association requires clinical training “at the table” to reach the advanced skill level requirements to be eligible to sit for the CSA Examination.

The Non Physician Surgical Assistant is a vital member of the operating room team! A well trained, certified professional in this role is essential to the efficiency and success of the operation. Having this trained professional as part of the operating room team optimizes patient care and safety.

History of NSAA

Although the Mayo Hospital and Clinic in Rochester, MN traces Non Physician Surgical Assistants back to the late 1950’s, It was a group of Surgical Assistants in southern Virginia that banned together in 1979 to form the Virginia Association of Surgical Assistants, set up a job description and standards for practice. This group saw a need for SA’s and the need for education. The Eastern Virginia Medical School then became the home for the SA program. With the help of the Department of Surgery at Norfolk General Hospital, they developed a Certification Exam. This group also conducted a survey across the country to find out just how many people were out there working in the capacity of a Surgical Assistant. They were amazed to find how many SA’s were going unrecognized for the job they performed. Reaching out across the United States, the membership grew and thus the Virginia Association of Surgical Assistants became the National Surgical Assistant Association in 1983. The NSAA’s mission statement and purpose is to set standards of professionalism, proficiency and continued education for non-physician surgical assistants throughout the county, and continues to have a close relationship with the Eastern Virginia Medical School Surgical Assistant Program.

Contact Information:

Email: nsaa@namgmt.com
Website: www.nsaa.net

Last updated: June 2005