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What is a Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA)?

What is a Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA)?

Among all the nursing specialties, there are some that are just more rewarding than others. One of those is the registered nurse first assistant (RNFA). These RNFAs treat patients in surgery, and they operate as a first assistant to the doctor performing the operation. They must be registered nurses (RNs), as LPNs and other types of nurses do not have the proper training. There’s additional training on top of the RN designation for people who want to work as an RNFA. When you are ready to make a difference in the lives of countless patients, you may want to pursue a career working as a registered nurse first assistant. Here are some of the most important things to know and consider, before you decide on this career path.

What is a Registered Nurse First Assistant?

A registered nurse first assistant is, first and foremost, an RN. These nurses go beyond the normal scope of what an RN handles and what they are allowed to do. There are hard lines between doctors and nurses as to the duties they can perform, but with the proper training and certification it is possible to blend those roles a bit more. That is where the registered nurse first assistant comes in. The specific role of the RNFA varies, based on the hospital or other facility that the nurse works in. The biggest difference is increased operating room abilities, but it is also important to understand that there are hospitals and other facilities that do not use or employ RNFAs. Where a person wants to work is important when pursuing their education.

What Does a Registered Nurse First Assistant Do?

An RNFA works to achieve optimal outcomes for the patient by collaborating with the surgeon and members of the healthcare team. Duties include the use of medical devices and instruments, providing exposure to the surgical site, and the handling or cutting of tissues. Additionally, a registered nurse first assistant can provide hemostasis, suturing, and wound management. That sets them apart, as an RN who has not been trained to be a first assistant would not be allowed to perform these duties. Still, the RNFA practices under the direct guidance of the surgeon and does not have a concurrent scrub person function.

Why is a Registered Nurse First Assistant So Important?

These nurses are able to get first-hand knowledge of what takes place during surgery, which can allow them to better understand the needs the patient will have afterward. That can give them not only more compassion for patients but a better ability to show others how to properly care for them. Additionally, an RNFA can help a doctor much more in the operating room than other scrub persons may be able to do. This can eliminate the need for a second doctor or trained first assistant that is not a nurse. Since the RNFA is also an RN, they can provide a dual role in the hospital — working as an RN as needed, and working as an RNFA as needed. That makes them highly versatile and very valuable to the medical community in many settings.

How to Become a Registered Nurse First Assistant

For those who want to become an RNFA, there are several things to consider. The most important one is the ability of the person to safely and properly handle the extra workload and advanced training that comes with the program and the job duties. Another is whether the mental and emotional pressure can be tolerated. Caring for a patient after surgery is different from being in the operating room while the surgery is taking place. That is not something everyone in the medical field is comfortable with, and an RNFA will have to be prepared for the reality of it. Additionally, since not all hospitals hire RNFAs, anyone considering the career path will want to find out if they can remain where they are and have job opportunities, or if they will need to move elsewhere to build their career.

RNFA Educational Requirements and Training

Anyone wanting to work as an RNFA will need to have an active RN license, which means obtaining a degree and then taking, and passing, the licensing exam for their state. Once they have done so, they will need to work as a perioperative nurse for at least two years at which point they can apply for the CCI’s CNOR (certified nurse operating room) designation. Nurses must work as an RNFA for at least 2,000 hours, along with meeting other requirements, before certification will be possible. Continuing education may also be required along with each hospital or surgical center’s own requirements.

The RNFA Career Outlook

The career outlook for the registered nurse first assistant is a good one. This is because RNFAs are high in demand at surgical centers that provide outpatient options. Additionally, hospitals are seeing the value of these nurses and how much more they can offer. Because they have the ability to assist the doctor, they can make it easier on the rest of the medical team and free up the surgeon’s time to address other patients. That can help to save lives and get people the surgery they need to start feeling better faster. It appears as though the RNFA designation will continue to expand in importance and value in the coming years.

Salary and Employment

Since the RNFA designation is still not all that common, the data for these nurses is very limited. As with any career field, though, the range of salary will vary depending on a number of factors. Someone with more experience and certification will command more money. It is also very important to consider the location and an area’s cost of living. With that in mind, the salary range for an RNFA in 2019 is between $73,000 and $105,000, with an average salary of $97,000 per year.

RNFA Resources

Having the proper resources matters. For the RNFA, those resources can be difficult to find. Growing demand and understanding of the job and its value will likely help with that, but it could take some time before there are more opportunities for a registered nurse first assistant to get the help and support they really want and need. In the meantime, here are some of the most asked questions and the associations that can be of help to the RNFA.

Registered Nurse First Assistant FAQs

What does a person who is thinking about becoming an RNFA really want to know? It is important to understand the differences between this and a standard nursing job, along with the work that has to go into becoming certified. Here are some of the most common questions.

Q: Are RNFA jobs really available?
A: Yes, with the right training and dedication it is possible to get a job as an RNFA.

Q: How important is the role of the RNFA?
A: The RNFA can play a vital role in the operating room by assisting the surgeon during operations and ensuring the patient gets the correct care they need after surgery.

Q: How different are state-by-state requirements?
A: States can set their own requirements, and it is important to study those for the state where the work will be done.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

There are fewer agencies and organizations available to assist RNFAs than some other areas of nursing specialties, but there are still options available. Here are some of the most important places to contact in order to learn about certifications, requirements, and much more for those who want to work toward a designation of registered nurse first assistant.

RNFA Scholarships

Need help getting started? Take a look at our guide to financial aid and our scholarship opportunity for future healthcare professionals.

List of Nursing Programs

Take a peek at our list of the best BSN degree programs in the United States to help you on your way!

What Now?

Ready to start your registered nurse first assistant career? We are here to help you do that. By reaching out to us, you will be taking the first step toward getting the information you need for your new RNFA career. We are happy to help you understand the requirements, the educational opportunities, and much more. Then you will be able to train to give patients needed care, and assist doctors in the operating room.

Not only will you get the satisfaction of helping other people, but you will get the understanding of how to help patients as they recover, as well. Being a registered nurse first assistant is a highly rewarding and valuable career that you will be able to enjoy and see the importance of for many years to come.

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