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Surgical Assistants
SOC Code: 29-2099.07

Assist surgeons during surgery by performing duties such as tissue retraction, insertion of tubes and intravenous lines, or closure of surgical wounds. Perform preoperative and postoperative duties to facilitate patient care.

Sample of reported job titles: 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)


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Determine availability of necessary equipment or supplies for operative procedures.
  • 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.
  • Obtain or inspect sterile or non-sterile surgical equipment, instruments, or supplies.
  • Operate sterilizing devices.
  • 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.
  • Assist members of surgical team with gowning or gloving.
  • Gather, arrange, or assemble instruments or supplies.
  • Coordinate with anesthesia personnel to maintain patient temperature.
  • Adjust and maintain operating room temperature, humidity, or lighting, according to surgeon's specifications.
  • Assist in applying casts, splints, braces, or similar devices.
  • Transport patients to operating room.
  • Remove patient hair or disinfect incision sites to prepare patient for surgery.
  • Incise tissue layers in lower extremities to harvest veins.
  • Postoperatively inject a subcutaneous local anesthetic agent to reduce pain.
  • Insert or remove urinary bladder catheters.
  • Assist in volume replacement or autotransfusion techniques.

Technology Skills

  • Medical software - Electronic medical record EMR software; MEDITECH software ; Supply documentation software; Surgery workflow communication software (see all 7 examples)
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel

Tools Used

  • Automated external defibrillators AED or hard paddles - Automated external defibrillators AED
  • Autotransfusion units - Cell savers
  • Blanket or solution warmer cabinets - Blanket warmer cabinets
  • Blood warming or transfusion systems - Blood warming equipment
  • Cardiac output CO monitoring units or accessories - Cardiac monitoring equipment
  • Cardiac pacemaker generator or cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemaker CRT-P - Heart pacemakers
  • Cast cutters or saws - Cast cutting saws
  • Chemical or gas sterilizers - Ethylene Oxide sterilizers
  • Desktop computers
  • Diagnostic or interventional vascular catheters or sets - Angiocaths
  • Electronic medical thermometers - Telethermometers
  • Electrosurgical or electrocautery equipment - Argon beam coagulators; Cauterizing equipment
  • Endoscopic video cameras or recorders or adapters or accessories - Endoscopic camera/video systems
  • Eyemagnets for ophthalmic surgery - Eye magnets
  • Flexible endoscopes or accessories or related products - Fiberoptic endoscopes
  • Floor grade forceps or hemostats - Hemostat clamps
  • Goggles - Surgical protective goggles
  • Hospital intercom systems - Hospital intercom equipment
  • Hypodermic injection apparatus or accessories - Subcutaneous injection syringes
  • Intravenous or arterial fluid warmers or accessories - Fluid warmers
  • Intravenous tubing with catheter administration kits - Intravenous IV sets
  • Lap mayo trays or mayo stands for surgical use or accessories - Mayo stands
  • Laparoscopes or laparoscopic telescopes - Laparoscopes
  • Medical carts or accessories - Anesthesia carts
  • Medical imaging dry laser printers or imagers - Medical image processing printers
  • Medical incision drains - Wound drains
  • Medical staff isolation or cover gown - Sterile gowns
  • Medical staff isolation or surgical masks - Surgical masks
  • Medical stapler for internal use - Medical staple kits
  • Notebook computers - Laptop computers
  • Operating room patient fracture tables or orthopedic tables or accessories or related products - Surgical fracture tables
  • Operating room patient positioning devices or accessories - Body stabilizers; Head stabilizers; Patient positioning devices
  • Operating room patient procedure tables or accessories or related products - C-arm tables
  • Pagers
  • Patient stretchers or stretcher accessories - Patient transport stretchers
  • Personal computers
  • Special purpose telephones - Multi-line telephone systems
  • Specimen collection container - Specimen collection containers
  • Steam autoclaves or sterilizers - Flash sterilizers; Pressure steam autoclaves
  • Surgical clamps or clips or forceps or accessories - Surgical clamps; Vascular clamps
  • Surgical dermatomes or dermabraders or dermameshers or accessories - Surgical dermatomes
  • Surgical drapes - Sterile drapes
  • Surgical gloves
  • Surgical lasers or accessories - Carbon dioxide CO2 lasers; Eye lasers; Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet Nd:YAG lasers
  • Surgical nerve stimulators or accessories - Nerve stimulators
  • Surgical pneumatic or battery or electric saws or drills or pin drivers or accessories - Powered surgical drills
  • Surgical pneumatic or electric tourniquets or accessories - Pneumatic tourniquets
  • Surgical power equipment sets or accessories - Surgical robots
  • Surgical retractors for general use - Surgical retractors
  • Surgical scalpels or knives or blades or trephines or accessories - Surgical scalpels
  • Surgical shave kits or prep razors or clippers - Surgical razors
  • Surgical suction machines or vacuum extractors or ultrasonic surgical aspirators or regulators or accessories - Suction machines
  • Surgical trocars for general use or accessories - Surgical trocars
  • Suturing kits or trays or packs or sets - Suture kits
  • Therapeutic heating or cooling units or systems - Hypothermia units
  • Urinary catheterization kit - Urinary catheters


  • 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.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Coordination - Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Service Orientation - Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Learning Strategies - Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.


  • 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).
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • 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 there is a problem.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Visual Color Discrimination - The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Multilimb Coordination - The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Flexibility of Closure - The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Hearing Sensitivity - The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Auditory Attention - The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
  • Category Flexibility - The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Reaction Time - The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Trunk Strength - The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Memorization - The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.
  • Speed of Closure - The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
  • Static Strength - The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
  • Time Sharing - The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).
  • Wrist-Finger Speed - The ability to make fast, simple, repeated movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists.


  • Interest code: CSR
    • Conventional - 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.
    • Social - Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
    • Realistic - 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.

Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 99% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled - 91% responded “Every day.”
  • Physical Proximity - 89% responded “Very close (near touching).”
  • Contact With Others - 80% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 81% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 77% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections - 64% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 72% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 72% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 49% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Consequence of Error - 71% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others - 51% responded “Very important.”
  • Electronic Mail - 52% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 31% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Deal With External Customers - 51% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 41% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 42% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions - 41% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 52% responded “Every day.”
  • Telephone - 42% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 36% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 41% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Radiation - 33% responded “Every day.”
  • Wear Specialized Protective or Safety Equipment such as Breathing Apparatus, Safety Harness, Full Protection Suits, or Radiation Protection - 35% responded “Every day.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 32% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 39% responded “Very important results.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 31% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations - 31% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Time Pressure - 34% responded “Every day.”
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People - 31% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions - 59% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Level of Competition - 46% responded “Moderately competitive.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions - 35% responded “Less than half the time.”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
25%Associate's degree
16%Post-baccalaureate certificate
15%Post-secondary certificate

Work Styles

  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

Work Values

  • 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. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Achievement - Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $20.10 hourly, $41,800 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 128,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Much faster than average (15% or higher)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 11,000

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