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Difference between surgical assistant and surgical PA?

Discussion in 'Clinicians [ RN / NP / PA ]' started by mednoob, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. mednoob

    mednoob I ask noobish questions 7+ Year Member

    May 19, 2008
    Hillbilly Town, Kentucky
    I know there are two roads to first assist at surgery:

    1) Scrub tech to CFA (certified surgical assistant)

    2) becoming a surgical PA

    Is there any difference between a surgical PA and a CFA? From what I know, they have the same duties it seems. Also, is there a difference salary-wise?
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  3. emedpa

    emedpa GlobalDoc 10+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2001
    Taking an Away team....
    A surgical pa can do everything a CFA can do plus admission history and physicals, rounding on pts before and after surgery, discharge summaries, clinic follow ups, take first call to the emergency dept for surgical pts, write prescriptions including narcotics, follow icu pts, run a minor procedures clinic by themselves, work in settings other than surgery, etc

    a cfa only assists in the o.r..that is the sum of their function. they can't independently see pts, write prescriptions, etc. they can do nothing without a surgeon right there except set up an instrument tray. a surgical pa after a few yrs can do 80% + of what the surgeon does. pa's who have been working in the same surgical specialty often do a an entire side of a procedure if bilateral proecedures are being done at the same time.
    CFA programs run around 9 months or so and surg techs make 35-50k or so.most surg techs get a certificate.
    pa programs run 24-27 months or so and surg pa's make 90-150k/yr. most pa's now get a masters degree.
    surgical pa's also have the option of completing a postgrad surgical residency(essentially an md surgical internship)see for examples

    there is actually another pathway to first assist called rnfa( rn first assist) which is a surgical nurse who does some extra training. they fall somewhere in the hierarchy over a surgical tech and under a pa and surgeon. Some acute care nurse practitioners also work as first assistants and have a role similar to that of a surgical pa.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2009
    sdr.cmk3 likes this.
  4. mednoob

    mednoob I ask noobish questions 7+ Year Member

    May 19, 2008
    Hillbilly Town, Kentucky
    thanks for your response :thumbup: very very helpful
  5. 235750

    235750 2+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2008
    If you change your mind or get bored with surgery, being a PA would allow you the latitude to practice virtually any sort of medicine. I'd go with that :thumbup:
  6. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    emedpa, that was a really informative post. I didn't even realize there was a CFA position.

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