Registered Nurse First Assistant, A.T.C



 Registered Nursing First Assistanting Class

Now that you’ve been working as an operating room registered nurse (RN) or advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), you realize that you want to do more in a surgical career. The registered nurse first assistant program is one of our Advanced Technical Certificate Programs (ATC) offered in Panama City, Florida, and prepares RNs for assisting the surgeon during surgery. Graduates will meet the program completion requirements to sit for the RNAS-C and CRNFA certification examination provided all other minimum requirements by the National Assistants at Surgery Certification (NASC) are met.

Getting your RNFA certificate in nursing is an important way to fast-track your career into the Surgical Department. 

  • The program consists of 9 college credits (3 classes). Upon successful completion of all courses with a C or better you are awarded an advanced technical certificate (ATC). If you are CNOR certified or are CNOR eligible, you can submit your CNOR certification for external credit for the first class.
  • This program is listed on the National Assistants at Surgery Certification (NASC) web page as the only RNFA program in Florida. The program meets all the AORN and NASC requirements for the core curriculum. In addition, we are associated with our accredited nursing programs including the RN to BSN and ADN programs.

MEET Laura, RN, RNFA, Cardiovascular Specialty

Laura, RN, RNFA, Cardiovasucular Specialty

Working in the operating room as a RNFA has been a valuable experience. I work in open heart surgery as a RNFA harvesting vein for bypass surgery and assisting during the surgical procedure. I have been a preceptor for the program, working with students and faculty. It is a great career!
– Cardiovascular RNFA, Surgical Services Past Faculty, Bay Medical Sacred Heart 



To be accepted into an RNFA program, the RN must have at least two years of professional nursing experience in the operating room environment and achieved the credential of CNOR (Certified Perioperative Nurse), or possess an advanced practice degree.

Certification is not required to function under the Florida State Nurse Practice Act as an RNFA.  The program is usually a 2 semester program involving both classroom and clinical components.  The nurse may then apply for and complete a national exam to receive the credential (CRNFA) through the National Assistants at Surgery Certification (NASC)

This program is flexible and offers two entry options to fit your needs:

  • If you are an ARNP and have no OR Experience, you enter the online program by completing the NSP2290 Perioperative Nursing Theory Class and then the NSP2090 RNFA Theory Class.
  • If you are already an experienced operating room nurse who is CNOR certified or if you are CNOR eligible, you may enter the online program NSP2090 RNFA Theory Class.
    • External college credit of 3 credits is awarded to those certified as a Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR).
    • NOTE: You must submit a copy of your active CNOR certificate to complete the requirements for the Advanced Technical Certificate.  If you do not pass the CNOR examination and/or submit your copy of the certificate, you will have to complete successfully NSP2290 course to complete the program.

You can submit college credit for your 2-year licensing cycle and renewal of your CNOR. Our nursing faculty care deeply about your career success and will help you through the rough spots along the way. They are your advocates, and after graduation, your professional colleagues.


  • You will enjoy our location in Florida, providing a wonderful place to learn while enjoying some special time on the beach. Our campus is located on the beautiful St. Andrews Bay, with many great views of the water. Schedule a campus tour to learn more about Gulf Coast State College.
  • Gulf Coast State College’s nursing programs also have clinical site agreements with many hospitals and rehabilitation centers in the area, including Gulf Coast Medical Center and Bay Medical Center in Panama City. You learn about the scope of practice, expectations of the surgeon and practice your skills at the on-site lab workshops including: how to make initial incisions, injecting local anesthetics, insertion of trocars, exposing the surgical site, providing hemostasis, manipulation or dissection of tissue, insertion of drains, suturing, and management of the wound.  As required by the AORN standards, the program does require at least a Bachelor's Degree with CNOR eligibility or licensure as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner.  If you do not have your Bachelor's Degree, the college offers a BSN  or other BS degrees which are online and more economical than major universities.
  • You will have access to state of the art equipment including a 4-bed OR Suite. You get individualized attention along with virtual and simulated hands on practice in a state college learning environment.
  • You have experienced trainers dedicated to optimizing and individualizing your learning experiences according to your needs. This program has been offered since 2008.
  • With plenty of time to plan for your lab week, you can complete all the online components during the months before or after the lab week.
  • You choose your own surgeon mentor to provide the training and guidance to perfect your surgical techniques such as tissue manipulation and wound closure.
  • You can do everything in your home town except the on-site Lab Week.  The on-site lab week is offered in  September or  February for 3-4 days.
  • There is an onsite clinical option; come here to complete your cases if you cannot arrange a clinical site or surgeon mentor in your home town.

 How many first assistants are there?

  • Approximately 1500 are certified through the National Assistants at Surgery Certification (NASC) as a CRNFA.
  • Com reports 5,470 RNFA practitioners.
  • The NBSTSA reports 4,613 CSFA practitioners.

What are the expectations for pay?

  • Average salary is $84,739,  which ranges from $76,625 to $94,336. (

What is the Job Outlook forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

  • The need for graduates is rated as “much faster than average with an increase of 15% expected by 2024”.

What is the program’s Placement Rate?

  • 100% as an entry level registered nurse first assistant in 2015. (Note: Most already have their jobs and are completing the program as a requirement for their work.)

What can I do with this Major?

  • As a RN, you may work as an RNFA in the state of Florida provided you are also CNOR certified and have completed an RNFA course.
  • As an ARNP, you may work as an RNFA in the State of Florida, provided you have discussed your status with the ARNP nursing board to document that you intend to function as an RNFA.

The advanced technical certificate courses are associated with the nursing programs of GCSC. The Associate Degree program of GCSC is accredited by the National League of Nursing and the Accrediting Commission while our RN to BSN degree program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).


 What do graduates do?

  • Anticipate the next step assisting with the correct instrumentation, supply or equipment thereby facilitating the surgical procedure.
  • Work alongside surgeons, making rounds, seeing patients in the office, and assisting in surgery.

Where do you work?

  • Hospitals or ambulatory care centers.
  • For a surgeon or surgical group.
  • Join a group of surgical assistants or open your own business working with several surgeons.
  • Opportunities abound, are you interested in traveling? You can apply for traveling assignments throughout the United States including Alaska and Hawaii.

What does your work environment look like?

  • Usually full time; may require call for nights, weekends and holidays.
  • May require work shifts greater than 8 hours
  • May require standing long hours.

If you would like further Surgical Assistant’s Information, go to:

 Registered Nursing First Assisting Class

Surgery simulation lab

This high-tech nursing lab in the George C. Tapper Health Sciences Building on the Panama City campus offers four high fidelity surgical operating room setups to practice and prepare for live surgery experiences.  Gaining confidence and experience prior to the surgical case can facilitate your experience so you can gain more real life hands-on experience quickly due to the advance preparation. 

 Suture Simulator

2022-2023 Catalog Requirements

Courses CH
+#*NSP2290, Perioperative Nursing Theory or proof of certification as a perioperative nurse (CNOR) 3
+#*NSP2090, Registered Nurse First Assistant Theory 3
+#*NSP2090L, Registered Nurse First Assistant Lab and Clinical 3



• General Education Core.

+ Prerequisites  and/or corequisites required.  See course descriptions.

# Applies only to A.S. degree and certificate programs.

= PSAV course.

* Minimum grade of "C" required.


Department Chair

Laura Justice
Chair, Health Sciences


Information on the Program



 Apply Now!