Monthly Surgical Assisting Newsletter

Our monthly surgical assisting newsletter brings you news and stories helpful and interesting to your career.

We will also be featuring students and graduates to give you a closer look at our program.

In this issue, RASA graduate Ellyn Adley is featured, who excelled in the program, passed her SA-C certification exam and then was asked to join the  Heart Team!

So this month we also bring you some resources on cardiac surgery.

Alice RASA Training Surgical Assisting InstructorMeet our Program Director Alice L. Dungen!

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Shortage of Cardiothoracic Surgeons Is Likely by 2020

Here is the conclusion of the study by the American Heart Association  The United States is facing a shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons within the next 10 years, which could diminish quality of care if non–board-certified physicians expand their role in cardiothoracic surgery or if patients must delay appropriate care because of a shortage of well-trained surgeons.

 Interested in the Heart Team? This could provide some opportunities for skilled and dedicated Surgical Assistants! Read Ellyn’s story to get a glimpse of what it takes to succeed as a Heart Team SA.

We also have a cardio-themed crossword puzzle for fun around the OR. Print it off, bring it to work and challenge your coworkers!

A note from our director…

Happy Holidays – December 2018

Graduate Spotlight – Ellyn Adley, SA-C, Heart Team SAellyn cardio newsletter

The Royal Academy of Surgical Assisting, Inc. is excited to announce our first “Student Spotlight!” Periodically, we will be featuring one of our students who has exceeded expectations in our program and accomplished their Surgical Assistant-Certified status. We recognize the dedication and hard work that must take place in a program such as this and happily pass along kudos for a “job well done” to Ellyn Adley, SA-C. I posed a number of questions to Ms. Adley about our Surgical Assisting Online program and her plans for the future.

What peaked your interest in surgery?

After high school Ellyn attended college to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant and had to take an anatomy class. Part of her studies included cadaver work and an in-depth look at musculature and the inner workings of the human body. This really appealed to her so she decided to explore a career where she could continue to learn about what went on inside the human body and enrolled in a surgical technology program. It was there during her work as a surgical technologist that she first became aware of surgical assistants (RN FA’s, CSA’s and PA FA’s) and their value in working side by side with the surgeon. This intrigued her even more.

Jump ahead to five years later and Ellyn noticed that the surgical assistants were always busy functioning as an integral part of the surgical team. About this time, there was talk that the resident program would be moving to another hospital, which could potentially leave her hospital without surgical assistant coverage. Additionally, the Heart Team had a shortage of assistants. This was another potential avenue for her to explore once she became a Surgical Assistant. She had always been interested in surgical assisting. However, she felt she would be more comfortable if she had a few years of experience as a surgical technologist before she felt ready to explore surgical assisting. Fast forward five years, she felt that it might be the right time to make the move. Ellyn enrolled in RASA’s Surgical Assistant online program.

Do you think the RASA Surgical Assistant course prepared you adequately?

“Yes,” replied Ellyn. “I do think that the course prepared me. Especially the surgical assisting portion of the program; I personally learned a lot from that portion.”  Ellyn also said that with already going through school for Surgical Technology she already had an understanding of all the systems and specialties that were reviewed in the program. So that made it easier for her get through and understand the concepts of surgery.

What did you like about the program?

Given that this is an online program, Ellyn liked the ability to complete the modules on her own time and at her own pace. She estimates that it took her almost exactly one year to complete the program; six months for the didactic portion and six months for the clinical portion. Since she was also teaching surgical technology students at a community college and working part time as a surgical technologist, she had to complete her assignments in between times and on evenings and weekends. With all this on her plate, it’s easy to imagine how hard she must have worked to balance all of these areas.


Another aspect that Ellyn highlighted was her appreciation that there was always someone at RASA to speak to if she had any questions or concerns. We at RASA pride ourselves assisting our students in any way we can and to assure them that they are on the right track. Many of our current students are already employed, either full or part time. We are very aware of the stresses that may be involved in the completion of this course of study. But guess what? In spite of all of the obstacles, we boast many successful graduations and certifications. Furthermore, I would be willing to state that none of them regretted their decision to become a Surgical Assistant!

What sorts of cases/specialties did your clinical portion cover?

Ellyn was one of our students who was able to gain experience in a number of specialties. Ellyn’s included Neurology, Plastic Surgery, Vascular Surgery and General Surgery. I’m betting that she was a shining star. Only six months into her General Team assignment, a member of the Cardiology Team (Open Heart) approached her inquiring if she would join them. There was no looking back for Ellyn after this and she has remained on the Heart Team since that time. RASA encourages students to gain as much hands-on time as possible in as many specialties as possible. This leads to a well-rounded experience during their clinicals. Imagine how marketable you will be if you are easily and confidently able to function in any number of specialties?

Did you face any particular challenges during your studies?

Without challenges, this would be just another boring program, right? Ellyn shared with me a few challenges relating to her clinicals. As Ellyn understood, her hospital allowed her to complete the clinical portion of the program “on the clock.” Part of the way through her clinicals, however, Ellyn was informed by the hospital that her clinical hours must be attained “off the clock”.

Thus, half-way through the clinicals, her particular challenges had to shift somewhat so she could meet her personal surgical technology hours, continue to teach surgical technology at a local university, devote the needed time and attention to the RASA program AND pay the bills! I must say that Ellyn exceeded in all of her assignments and always gave that “extra” to assure that her procedure logs would be accepted.

Do you think that RASA prepared you to pass the ABSA’s Certification Exam?

Ellyn shared that the module tests were indeed very helpful in setting the tone for the types of questions that she would find on the certification exam. She also felt that the ABSA practice exam provided on the RASA eCampus site definitely helped her with passing the certification exam! She took the initiative to cut it up and make flash cards and memorized them all and it really helped! Having the actual diagrams that were on the test and being able to study those were a huge benefit!  I would be willing to bet she breezed through the course as well as the exam. She also lauded her surgical technology background as being helpful in providing her with a background in surgery, techniques and practices. She admitted that some of the questions threw her off, while many others were easy!

Please share with us your most rewarding case as a Surgical Assistant-C.

“Oh yes!,” exclaimed Ellyn. “I was working with a Vascular Surgeon who performs daVinci first rib resections for thoracic outlet syndrome. He basically approached me asking if I would be willing to assist him on a case. Of course, I agreed.” He felt so impressed by her skills that he asked her to work with him again. He actually wrote a comment on her evaluation form explaining that he felt very comfortable with her competent and capable assistance. This particular surgeon works at a university medical center with athletic/sports medicine clients. He, in fact, sees and treats a large number of younger female patients from all over the United States!

What was your most challenging Surgical Assistant case?

This would have to be assisting on a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft or CABG as we in the surgical field would refer to it. Ellyn found it to be quite challenging and much more intimidating than passing instruments. However, it was all worth it as she was able to see a different side of surgery…up close and personal! When asked which position she preferred (CST or SA-C) and she emphatically said she just loves being involved in direct patient care as a Surgical Assistant.

Do you think that this was the right career move for you?

“Absolutely! Being a Surgical Assistant gets you much more involved in the case and what is going on with the patients. I also very much enjoy working closely with the surgeons,” shared Ms. Adley.

What traits do you think are necessary to succeed in a Surgical Assistant career?

Ellyn immediately stated, “Teamwork. Definitely Teamwork.” The Heart Team that she currently is a part of is a small group of individuals who work closely together every day and – no doubt – many nights and weekends together on call. This Team wouldn’t be as effective without teamwork. Additionally, she highlighted “Trust” as a necessary trait for success. Everyone must work together and trust that the other team member(s) will be there to pitch in and assure that the flow of the surgery will continue. Lastly, Ellyn pointed out the importance of “Communication,” and how, if carried out appropriately, prevents critical issues from being missed.

What are your plans for the future?

First of all, Ellyn is delivering her first child in April. Congratulations to Ellyn and her husband and on behalf of RASA. I’d like to extend our very best wishes! Following this important milestone in her life, Ellyn plans to continue working with the Heart and Vascular Team. The hospital she is currently employed with are building a Hybrid OR that will be opening this year. This will be a minimally invasive procedure room where Endovascular AAA’s, Femoral-Popliteal Artery Grafts, Ballooning and Stents will take place. The benefit of this Hybrid OR is that it has all of the “accoutrements” of an OR, should an urgent conversion from an endoscopic procedure to an open procedure be required. She is very excited to be a part of this process and plans to assist the Team in the development of the Hybrid room.

Do you anticipate any changes to your lifestyle as a result of attaining Surgical Assistant-C?

Since Ellyn has been working in a hospital and taking call, she doesn’t expect to see much of a change, other than her new and exciting position as a Surgical Assistant. She will continue to be a hospital employee as a SA-C and remain on the Heart and Vascular Team, as mentioned earlier. Ellyn did say that she feels that their new baby would undoubtedly provide her with a pretty big challenge! I have every confidence in Ellyn that she will breeze through motherhood as well as she has our program!

Are there any other career opportunities that you might want to pursue now that you are a SA-C?

Ellyn explained that she desires the position of Team Leader at some point, as teaching and taking charge are some areas that she has always been interested in. (With her enthusiasm and desire to succeed, I can easily visualize Ellyn achieving any goal she sets for herself.) She once thought about medical sales, but for now, she will continue on her Surgical Assisting path. “I just want to be in the OR.” The OR environment requires a certain type of person (and you know who you are!) to handle this day to day mechanism; the cases, the surgeons, the personalities and so on. I am sure that this rings true for many of you who are reading this right now. The OR is definitely a draw for those of us who work there and once you experience it, it becomes a part of you.


Again, a hearty congratulations to Ellyn on her successful completion of the RASA program and becoming a SA-C! And the happy news of your new family addition!

Student Spotlight by Alice L. Dungen Program Director, Independent Surgical Assistant

Test your surgical terminology knowledge with our monthly crossword puzzle:

Ready to challenge your knowledge? Try our Cardiac Crossword Puzzle.


Think you figured out all the answers?

Fun Study Apps:

Check out the heart in the 3D Visual Body app. It is $24.99, but well worth it!

Or try out the BioDigital Human

Below are some service opportunities, but if you know of more post them on our Facebook page and share them with others.

Service Opportunities is a network that allows you to search hundreds of organizations based on your healthcare specialty (including Surgical Tech), part of the world, and health issue(s) of interest. Although many individual organizations offer the opportunity to volunteer in a surgical missions, not all accept SAs. Following are a few that may; we’d love to hear from you about other opportunities.