Photo of Mayo Clinic surgeons in an operating room

Program description

The mission of the Surgical First Assistant Program is to prepare competent entry-level surgical assistants in the cognitive, psychomotor and affective learning domains. Graduates of the program will have acquired the necessary professional knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors and cultural competencies to function as effective members of a surgical team in the surgical assistant role.

The Surgical First Assistant Program prepares an individual to function as a surgical first assistant after completing approximately five months of classroom and lab education and seven months of clinic time.

Classroom time is spent learning about the operating room culture and techniques, participating in an intensive anatomy review with the cadaver lab, and learning about expectations of the surgical assistant. Clinicals are conducted in the various surgical suites of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester to obtain the necessary technical skills vital to this role.

Upon successful completion of this program, students acquire:

  • Advanced understanding of human anatomy
  • Refined surgical skills (suturing and hemostasis, patient safety and wound care)
  • Extensive knowledge of surgical procedures
  • Appropriate professional standards

Gainful employment disclosure report

The Department of Education requires disclosure of student debt and employment information to assist students in making informed decisions prior to enrolling in this education program.


The Surgical First Assistant Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

See accreditation information for Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.


Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, includes an extensive outpatient complex, Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, and substantial research and education facilities.

This Mayo Clinic site is among the largest, most advanced medical centers in the world.

Students spend time in the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Centers and human anatomy lab, as well as clinical time in the surgical suites of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester and the same-day surgical suites in the Gonda Building.

Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester has one of the largest surgical suites in the nation with more than 120 operating rooms. Each year, Mayo Clinic surgeons perform nearly 50,000 surgical procedures — about 200 a day — at the hospital's two campuses. The vast number and type of surgeries, in combination with a highly educated faculty, make Mayo Clinic an ideal educational setting for students in surgical training programs.

Graduation and certification

Upon successful completion of the Surgical First Assistant Program, students receive a certificate of completion from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences. The program requires a grade of 70 percent or greater to pass a course. All courses and clinical work must be completed consecutively; deviation from scheduled coursework is not permitted.

During the last course of the program, students are required to sit for a national certification exam. Two exams are offered, the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSFA) through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) exam from the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA). These exams are offered on-site for the student upon completion of the required number of clinical cases and classroom credits. Certification from the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA) will be granted for those who pass the certifying exam.

Photo of foot bone


The classroom portion of the program typically includes four or more hours per day, three to five days a week. Days and times vary based on availability of faculty and space. Class sessions include lecture, lab, simulation, and various other experiences that may require travel to offsite locations for additional learning.

Clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Minimum case requirement will be discussed prior to entry of surgical suite. Minimum hour requirement is 950 hours.

Class size

Each year, Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences admits up to 20 students to the Surgical First Assistant Program. This ensures students receive close one-on-one instruction and a comprehensive educational experience.

Feb. 28, 2017