Doctors’ surgery assistants support doctors of medicine in medical measures, in performing simple support activities during medical procedures, standardised diagnostic programmes and standardised point-of-care tests, ensuring surgery hygiene, cleaning, disinfecting, sterilising and maintaining medical devices and performing the organisational and administrative tasks required for operating a doctor`s surgery under supervision, following the orders of the doctor of medicine.
The duties of a doctors’ surgery assistant include, but are not limited to:
- Assisting with patient resuscitation during cardiac arrests or other life-threatening events.
- Covering patients with surgical drapes to ensure and maintain a sterile operating field, removing patients’ body hair, and disinfecting the incision site.
- Determining the availability and inspecting sterile and non-sterile surgical equipment, tools, and supplies.
- Adjusting and maintaining the operating room temperature, humidity, and lighting according to the Surgeon’s specifications.
- Applying sutures, staples, clips, and drainage systems and clamping, or cauterizing blood vessels to control bleeding.
- Assisting with the positioning of patients’ bodies to protect against nerve damage or circulation impairment and assessing the patients’ body conditions after surgery.
- Maintaining an unobstructed operating field with surgical retractors, sponges, and suctioning and irrigating equipment.
- Monitoring patients’ positions, vital signs, and volume and color of blood during operations.
- Assisting the surgical team with gowning or gloving and passing instruments or supplies to the Surgeon.
- Assisting with the application of dressings, casts, splints, braces, and other devices.
The following job titles also refer to doctors’ surgery assistant:
Doctors’ surgery assistants wear scrubs and sterile gowns, gloves, caps, and masks while they are in the operating room. Their work may be physically demanding, requiring them to be on their feet for long periods. They also may need to help move patients or lift heavy trays of medical supplies. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.
Most doctors’ surgery assistants work full time. Those employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.
Doctors’ surgery assistants typically need a certificate or associate’s degree from an accredited program. Many community colleges and vocational schools, as well as some universities and hospitals, offer accredited surgical technology or surgical assisting programs.
Doctors’ surgery assistants may complete a formal education program in surgical assisting. Others may work as surgical technologists and receive additional on-the-job training to become first assistants.
Surgical technology education includes courses such as anatomy, microbiology, and physiology. These workers also learn about the care and safety of patients, sterilization techniques, how to set up technical or robotic equipment, and preventing and controlling infections. In addition to classroom study, students gain hands-on experience in supervised clinical settings.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Doctors’ surgery assistant is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Doctors’ surgery assistant career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to doctors’ surgery assistant.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of doctors’ surgery assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of doctors’ surgery assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of doctors’ surgery assistant.
- Techniques of blood-sampling: The appropriate techniques for the collection of blood samples for laboratory work purposes, depending on the group of people targeted such as children or elderly.
- Health care legislation: The patients` rights and responsibilities of health practitioners and the possible repercussions and prosecutions in relation to medical treatment negligence or malpractice.
- Medical terminology: The meaning of medical terms and abbreviations, of medical prescriptions and various medical specialties and when to use it correctly.
- Surgical asepsis: The way to keep equipment and surfaces sterile to prevent infections during medical care.
- Administrative tasks in a medical environment: The medical administrative tasks such as registration of patients, appointment systems, record keeping of patients information and repeated precribing.
- Health records management: The procedures and importance of record keeping in a healthcare system such as hospitals or clinics, the information systems used to keep and process records and how to achieve maximum accuracy of records.
- Multi-professional cooperation in health care: The way to behave during team meetings, visits and meetings in multi-professional cooperation especially with other health professionals.
- Professional documentation in health care: The written standards applied in the health care professional environments for documentation purposes of one`s activity.
- Health care system: The structure and function of health care services.
- Medical informatics: The processes and tools used for the analysis and dissemination of medical data through computerized systems.
- Anaesthetics: Anaesthetics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of doctors’ surgery assistant.
- Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
- Provide pre-treatment information: Explain treatment options and possibilities, informing the patients in order to help them make well-balanced decisions.
- Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
- Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
- Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
- Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
- Ensure proper appointment administration: Set up a proper procedure to manage appointments, including policies related to cancellation and nonappearance.
- Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
- Provide test results to medical staff: Record and pass test results to medical staff, who use the information to diagnose and treat patient`s illness.
- Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
- Answer patients’ questions: Respond in a friendly and professional manner to all inquiries from current or potential patients, and their families, of a healthcare establishment.
- Monitor patients’ progress related to treatment: Observe and report on healthcare users’ response to medical treatment, monitoring their progress or decay on a daily basis and modifying the treatment procedures whenever necessary.
- Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
- Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
- Maintain healthcare user data confidentiality: Comply with and maintain the confidentiality of healthcare users` illness and treatment information.
- Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
- Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
- Process medical insurance claims: Contact the patient`s health insurance company and submit the appropriate forms with information on the patient and treatment.
- Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
- Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
- Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
- Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
- Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
- Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
- Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
- Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
- Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
- Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
- Maintain treatment records: Keep accurate records and file reports related to the prescribed treatment or medication.
- Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
- Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
- Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
- Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
- Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of doctors’ surgery assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Clinical reports: The methods, assessment practices, credentials and opinions gathering procedures necessary for writing clinical reports.
- Customer service: Processes and principles related to the customer, client, service user and to personal services; these may include procedures to evaluate customer’s or service user’s satisfaction.
- E-procurement: The functioning and methods used to manage electronic purchases.
- Wound closure techniques: Wound healing techniques such as inflammation, tissue formation, tissue remodeling and skin anatomy, and the suturing materials used such as staples, synthetic sutures, absorbables, tapes, and adhesive compounds.
- Radiological procedures: The radiological procedures with digital imaging and other imaging techniques.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of doctors’ surgery assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Supervise medical office support workers: Supervise the work of office support workers in the medical field such as medical receptionists and support them in any administrative related business.
- Perform venepuncture procedures: Perform venepuncture procedures by selecting a suitable site to puncture the patients` veins, preparing the puncture site, explaining the procedure to the patient, extracting the blood and collecting it in an appropriate container.
- Use venepuncture procedure equipment: Make use of the instruments and tools such as tourniquet, alcohol wipes, gauze sponges, sterilized needles and syringes, adhesive bandages, gloves and evacuated collection tubes, used in the procedure for collecting blood from patients.
- Collect biological samples from patients: Follow recommended processes to collect bodily fluids or samples from patients for further laboratory testing, assisting the patient as required.
- Handle patients with special needs: Respond appropriately and communicate effectively with patients with special needs such as learning disabilities and difficulties, physical disabilities, mental illness, memory loss, bereavement, terminal illness, distress or anger.
- Record healthcare users’ billing information: Record the healthcare user`s information for the billing of provided medical services.
- Apply procurement: Undertake ordering of services, equipment, goods or ingredients, compare costs and check the quality to ensure optimal payoff for the organisation.
- Offer advice on diet-related concerns: Offer advice on dietary concerns such as overweight or elevated cholesterol levels.
- Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or services providers. Use foreign languages to facilitate patient care according to the needs of the patient.
- Assist with hemostasis: Use the appropriate techniques and tools to stop bleeding, applying haemostatic agents and vessel loops.
ISCO group and title
3256 – Medical assistants
- Doctors’ surgery assistant – ESCO
- Surgical Assistants and Technologists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Surgical Assistant Job Description – Betterteam
- Featured image: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stephanie Smith – Public Domain