Surgical First Assistant

As defined by the American College of Surgeons, the surgical first assistant provides aid in exposure, hemostasis, and other technical functions that will help the surgeon carry out a safe operation with optimal results for the patient. This role will vary considerably with the surgical operation, specialty area, and type of facility. Clinical skills performed under direct supervision of the surgeon may include the following:

  • Positioning the patient
  • Preparing the skin
  • Providing visualization of the operative site
  • Utilizing appropriate techniques to assist with hemostasis
  • Participating in volume replacement or auto transfusion techniques as appropriate
  • Utilizing appropriate techniques in closure of body planes
  • Selecting and applying appropriate wound dressings
  • Providing assistance in securing drainage system to tissue

Available Credentials

Associate in Applied Science

  • Surgical First Assistant (15 credit hours - if student already possesses Surgical Technology diploma)


  • Surgical First Assistant (15 credit hours)

For program course requirements, consult the Madisonville Advising Plan.

Employment Opportunities

Surgical assistants are primarily employed by hospitals or by physicians, who often hire the first assistant as their personal assistant in surgery. Starting salaries often range between $16 and $26 per hour.

Admission Requirements

Surgical First Assistant is a selective admission program. In addition to MCC’s general admission requirements, candidates to the program must complete the following:

  • Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) or Certified Nurse-Operating Room (CNOR) or documented experience in Surgical Assisting as approved by program coordinator
  • Proof of professional liability insurance. ($11.00 per semester- must be purchased through school)
  • Current CPR or BLS certification (copy of certification) 
  • Acceptable health and immunization records (MMR, TB, Hep-B --copy of employee health records) Depending on the students selected clinical site this may include a drug screen and background check if the clinical site requires it prior to clinical rotation

Additional requirements for online assisted students

Online assisted students must meet the required program admission eligibility requirements and have an approved preceptor at their facility that will agree to perform the following duties:

  • Clinical preceptors are responsible for understanding the content and the scope of the students' clinical preparation prior to the clinical practicum. This includes suturing check-offs, positioning check-offs and surgical skills check-offs before the student begins the clinical portion of the program.
  • Preceptors shall be responsible for providing clinical Surgical Assistant experience opportunities, evaluating student performance in an on-going manner, informing the program director/coordinator about student performance that is less than satisfactory and attesting to the level of student achievement during each rotation.

Students in the distance program have a couple of options for performing pre-clinical evaluations:

  • Students may perform the pre-clinical and program evaluations at the Madisonville Community college by attending a weekend lab or week lab depending on the need of the individual student.
  • Experienced surgical students may work with their preceptors and video tape the evaluations in order to save the expense of traveling to Madisonville. Example: After receiving approval from the facility the student could elect to perform the positioning evaluation by using an empty OR room and a few volunteer co-workers. The student would perform the positioning skills using a co-worker and clearly explain the position and safety features during the video. The suturing evaluation could be performed using foam kits or with pigs feet. The student would demonstrate the skill and describe each stitch during the video.

Length of Program

You can complete the Surgical First Assistant program in one academic year, after which you may sit for the CFA or CSA National Certification exam. The program is flexible and set up for people who work full-time. Several methods/tracks are offered to complete the program. The Surgical First Assistant program is offered online assisted.

For more information

Jeff Bidwell, CST, CSFA, CSA, KCSA, MA, FAST 
(270) 824-1740

This information should not be considered a substitute for the KCTCS Catalog. You should always choose classes in cooperation with your faculty advisor to ensure that you meet all degree requirements.