Grace Hospital nurses are now surgical assistants

RNFSA graduates: Chris Gaskell. left, Alice Walker, Julia Ashley and Dominique Lieder. Photo Supplied.


Four Grace Hospital nurses received the Registered First Surgical Assistant, RNFSA qualification which allows them to undertake a surgical assistant role in an operating theatre.

The qualification, RNFSA (Registered First Surgical Assistant) offered by the University of Auckland, is part of a trend, backed by the Nursing Council of New Zealand and medical providers, to develop advanced nursing roles to accommodate the increasing complexity of the population's healthcare needs.

To be eligible to apply for the course, nurses must be registered, have a minimum of 5 years’ experience, as well as be employed in a perioperative environment, ‘operating theatres’, and have a surgeon mentor. 

The qualification lasts 1 semester and consists of 140 hours of clinical work in the RNFSA role, with 10 hours per week of study over 6 months.

Grace's orthopaedic surgeon specialising in spinal surgery, David Bartle was Alice Walker’s mentor during the qualification.

She assisted David with the majority of the surgeries, and David provided post-operative feedback to her after every procedure.

Regular meetings were also held with the surgeon during her study to ensure Alice’s study goals were on track.

“It was hard work at times, but I enjoyed it,” says Alice about completing the course.

“As a student, you can choose different topics depending on what you are going to be exposed to.

My speciality was spine-related, but other nurses I studied with chose different areas to focus on.

At Grace, we had different surgeons mentoring us depending on what our interest areas were. I’m proud to say we all achieved really good grades.”

Registered Nurse First Surgical Assistant, Postgraduate Certificate: Alice Walker. Photo Supplied.

Grace Hospital was very supportive, says Alice.

“They gave us as many days as we needed to go up to Auckland University for the course.”

Alice also gives special mention to Yvonne Morgan, the course’s academic mentor who started the qualification, lectures and runs the course. “She was amazing – a real support for us.”

Alice has been a registered nurse for 6 years, the last 3 years and a half she has been working at Grace Hospital.

She has also completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Nursing, which is a perioperative paper.

This was an additional semester of study, meaning that both qualifications, RNFSA, and the Postgraduate Certificate) took me a year all up, says Alice.

“The new qualification has allowed me to pick up extra responsibility in my job – I can now do perioperative surgery and assessments and post-operative care.

“In theatre, we can do wound closures, administer local anaesthetic and position patients independently without the surgeon.

I am now more of a senior nurse. I love having that extra expertise in theatre. “

"If there is any registered perioperative nurse considering the qualification, I’d say just go for it. It was very achievable, especially with the support of a good employer,” says Alice.

Grace Hospital’s General Manager, Janet Keys, says there is nothing but praise for what these four nurses have achieved.

“It’s been fantastic to watch the learning journey and hard work these nurses have put into completing their qualifications. I’m delighted with their achievements, we feel lucky to have them as part of our perioperative team.”

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