Mayo Clinic surgical first assistant student using a robotic task trainer

The Surgical First Assistant Program prepares you for professional practice in surgery. During the program, learning experiences include:

  • Advanced human anatomy
  • Suture and tying skills
  • Hemostasis of the surgical field
  • Laparoscopic techniques
  • Casting and dressing applications
  • Robotic surgical procedures

Didactic coursework

The didactic coursework in the Surgical First Assistant Program includes:

Surgical First Assisting Anatomy (4 credits)

This advanced course includes a strong focus on the body's structure and prepares the student for proper tissue handling and other events related to a surgical procedure. A cadaver lab for gross anatomy review and discussion also is included.

Presurgical Theory (2 credits)

Coursework prepares an individual with a bachelor's degree for the surgical suite. Study includes medical terminology, aseptic techniques and basic instrumentation. Fundamental concepts in microbiology, infectious processes and immune responses are reviewed. Operating room protocol and universal precautions are thoroughly discussed.

Principles of Surgical First Assisting I (3 credits)

Principles of Surgical First Assisting I teaches fundamental skills of the surgical first assistant role. Skills necessary to initialize a case, development of skills for intraoperative techniques, suturing and visualization are thoroughly discussed and practiced.

Principles of Surgical First Assisting II (3 credits)

Principles of Surgical First Assisting II further advances the student's knowledge base of the perioperative environment. Methods and procedural techniques found in various surgical specialties valuable to the surgical first assistant role are explained and demonstrated. Skill assessment is required prior to entering the surgical suites of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester.

Advanced Topics of Surgical First Assisting (3 credits)

This final course in the program enables the student to understand different legal definitions and identify operating room situations that could lead to ethical conflict. Business aspects of the surgical assisting profession will be discussed. The opportunity to participate with a research paper for publication also will be offered.


The clinical rotations offered as part of the Surgical First Assistant Program require experience in a minimum of 240 cases (approximately 1,150 hours) and include these surgical areas:

  • General
  • Orthopedics
  • Neurosurgery
  • Trauma
  • Genitourinary
  • Plastics
  • Ambulatory
  • Robotics
  • Vascular
  • Cardiothoracic

Note: In order to take the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA) examination, candidates are required to complete a minimum of 400 clinical hours and a minimum of 240 cases. The program's clinical experience will exceed these requirements.

Mayo Clinic surgeons in an operating room

Grading or evaluation

Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences uses these evaluative tools:

  • Written examination
  • Demonstration of skills
  • Self-assessment exercises
  • Faculty reviews

Mayo's system of evaluation provides students and faculty with a comprehensive look at individual performance. This allows faculty and administrative staff to direct students who are experiencing academic difficulty to the appropriate support resources, including tutoring programs and counseling opportunities.

Curriculum enhancements

Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences is committed to developing and maintaining the best education programs. The curriculum and other aspects of this program are assessed constantly and changed as necessary to ensure the highest-quality training.

June 09, 2017