Surgical Assistants: Unsung Heroes of the OR

By Billy Williams, SA-C

With nearly three decades of experience in the operating room, I’ve witnessed firsthand what it takes to make surgeries successful. While a skilled surgeon is crucial, surgical assistants play a pivotal role in orchestrating surgeries, from preparing the operating room to closing incisions, all while maintaining effective communication among the surgical team.

Surgical assistants arrive early to help set up the room for each procedure, organize instrumentation, collaborate with nurses to prepare for cases, and coordinate with surgical techs, anesthesiologists, and other essential staff. Their deep understanding of the surgeon’s preferences for equipment and procedures allows the operation to proceed efficiently while closely monitoring the patient’s well-being.

Surgery is a collaborative effort, and while the surgeon takes the lead, it’s the surgical assistant who helps the surgeon facilitate everything. Their role is to make sure everyone is aligned and working for the best possible outcome for the patient.

The Surgeon Relationship is Essential for Success

To orchestrate a successful surgery, the surgical assistant must not only must understand the technical aspects of the operation but also cultivate a strong working relationship with the surgeon. This involves adapting to the surgeon’s style, knowing their preferences for instruments and technology, and anticipating their needs throughout the procedure. In many cases, it means having the suturing skills to close an incision as well as a surgeon could. This is important because the patient may not remember the complexities of the surgery, but they will likely see the incision for some time to come. As a result, the surgical assistant must earn the trust of the surgeon to handle those duties.

Technological Support Improves Surgical Operations

At AP Health, our company collaborates with over 1,000 surgeons across numerous surgical facilities. and Wwe take great pride in the relationships we’ve built with them. We leverage technology to support these relationships, using our LogistiSx platform to schedule surgeons’ preferred surgical assistants for more than 95% of the cases we staff. Additionally, we’ve developed a Surgeon Relationship Management program within our platform which houses a wealth of information about each surgeon, including details about procedures, preferred technology vendors and equipment and surgical techniques. Having this technological support instills confidence in our providers when working with surgeons and brings a sense of calm when interacting with other team members.

Working as a surgical assistant is a high-pressure job, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Many of the surgeries we perform involve spinal and orthopedic procedures, which enable patients to return to activities they once thought were beyond reach, free from pain. Knowing that we play a pivotal role in orchestrating these life-changing surgeries is immensely gratifying, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.