The main role of the surgical assistant is to provide support to a surgeon during operations. In addition, they typically also have duties to perform both before and after surgery. These types of health care careers are ideal for people who want to be involved in caring for patients during surgery, but who do not want the high-pressure job of the surgeon.
Prior to surgery, the surgical assistant may be required to set up the operating room by assembling all of the instruments that will be needed during the procedure, and by checking equipment to ensure it works correctly. They may also help prepare patients for surgery. Finally, they must also review the procedure and ensure that paperwork and permits are completed.
During a procedure, the surgical assistant will work closely with a surgeon or surgical nurse, usually working directly under the surgeon’s or nurse’s supervision. During the procedure, they have responsibilities pertaining to both the patient and surgeon. They must monitor the patient’s condition and vital signs to ensure they are physically coping with the surgery, and must also be attentive to the needs of the surgeon, and provide them with the instruments and equipment they need. Other assistance, such as cutting sutures, helping retract or clamp tissue, and closing and dressing wounds, is done as needed, and at the surgeon’s direction. When the procedure is completed, the surgical assistant might be responsible for cleaning equipment and ensuring the operating room is restocked for the next operation.
People working in medical careers such as this must have a mix of both personal and professional skills to help them cope in what can be a very demanding job. A surgical assistant should have excellent manual dexterity, high attention to detail, and the ability to work well even when under pressure or when time is short. The ability to concentrate and remain focused for long periods of time is also essential. Surgical assistants should work well in a team, and be able to work effectively independently as well.
In the United States, accredited programs for surgical assistants range in length from ten months to two years, and include theoretical as well as practical courses. Many surgical assisting qualifications have stringent requirements, such as the requirement for a three or four year degree, or an Associate’s degree together with job experience. As well as gaining a degree, most states require that a surgical assistant gain certification with an organization such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.