Mayo Clinic surgical first assistant students getting trained

Surgical first assistant training at Mayo Clinic

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Program description

The 12-month Surgical First Assistant Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, offers the best-accredited certificate training program in the Midwest. You will gain an advanced understanding of human anatomy while refining your surgical skills. This program prepares you with the knowledge and skills needed to become an effective member of a surgical team with extensive knowledge of surgical procedures, all while learning the appropriate professional standards of the role.

Surgical first assistants, or first assists, act as a second pair of hands for surgeons during surgery. They work in the operating room, assisting the surgeon with equipment, retracting incisions, stopping bleeding, closing the incision, among other hands-on tasks during surgery.

Choosing Mayo Clinic

Program highlights:

  • A curriculum that includes five months of classroom and lab education and seven months of clinical experience, which allows you to start your career more quickly.
  • Training experiences at one of the largest surgical suites with one of the most advanced medical centers in the nation.
  • A focus on hands-on and tactical training where you’ll work on hundreds of cases that far exceed the accreditation board’s minimum hours of clinical experience.
  • An opportunity to sit for two nationally recognized certification exams, the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) exam with the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA) and the Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA) exam with the National Board for Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). In 2023, the CSFA exam pass rate was 84%. Accreditation requires a minimum of 71%.

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates 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.

Matthew Shedd, C.S.A.

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Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, Minnesota.
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Rochester, MN

Behind the scenes: Surgical first assistant


Behind the scenes: Surgical first assistant

Explore what a surgical first assistant does

Surgical first assistants work closely with surgeons in the operating room. They anticipate the needs of the surgical team and assist the surgeon by preparing equipment, retracting incisions, stopping bleeding, and closing incisions.

Accreditation information

The Surgical First Assistant Program is an accredited training program.


Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
25400 US Highway 19 North
Suite 158
Clearwater, FL 33763
Phone: 727-210-2350

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