The San Juan College Surgical First Assistant Program establishes Online Programming Option for students.

Student Surgical Technician works in simulated surgery in one of the operating room suites in the Health Science Simulation Center

The new online Surgical First Assistant program at San Juan College gives operating room healthcare professionals the opportunity to enhance their career and take their profession to the next level. San Juan College has the only online Surgical First Assistant program located in the Southwestern part of the United States.

San Juan College answered the demand by creating the new online program earlier this year, allowing students from across the nation to earn their credential as a CSFA (Certified Surgical First Assistant).

Surgical First Assistant Program establishes Online Programming

“The need for Surgical First Assistants continues to grow,” says Lydell Powell, Surgical First Assistant instructor and program coordinator. “The importance of utilizing qualified surgical assistants is increasing as communities confront a decrease in the number of surgeons. Overall, the resources of hospitals are diminishing but the need for quality patient care will continue to grow.”

Under direct and indirect supervision of the surgeon, surgical first assistants provide the surgeon with hands-on support with vital tasks from pre-operative to post-operative procedures, including hemostasis, closure, and other intraoperative technical functions.

“A Surgical First Assistant is not considered to be an entry level position,” explains Powell. “Prior to entering the profession, leadership skills and experience as a surgical tech or other operating room professional, is required. The first assistant should be a trained individual who is able to participate in  and actively assist the surgeon in completing the operation safely and expeditiously by helping to provide exposure, maintain hemostasis, and serve other technical functions.”

SJC Program History

Since 2007, San Juan College has provided an accredited Surgical Technologist program, which takes an average of two years to complete, including prerequisite courses. The natural progression in the career field is as a Surgical First Assistant, which can be completed online within one year. Students are required to assist in 140 surgical procedures, complete the degree requirements and finish the online didactics with hands-on lab training, at approved healthcare facilities near the students’ home.

There are a variety of employment options for Surgical First Assistants, including hospital operating and delivery rooms, physicians' offices, and outpatient or ambulatory surgery centers. Some Surgical First Assistants even own their own business contracting directly with surgeons. Students in the First Assistant program can continue working while earning the Surgical Assisting Certificate.

Offering the program online provides an opportunity for students to advance their career while working in the field. J’Shaun Bedoni is one student who is enhancing her career while serving as a Surgical Technologist at Four Corners Ambulatory Surgery Center, LLC.

“I love what I do,” Bedoni says. “Through this online program, I not only have the chance to increase my skills and advance in my career, I can take classes during the day when it’s most convenient for my schedule.”  

More Info

For more information on the Surgical First Assistant program, contact Lydell Powell at 505-566-3856 or at or visit the website at