Top 10 Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) Programs

12 Min Read Published February 7, 2024
Top 10 Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) Programs

Considering becoming a Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA)?  We've put together a list of the top RNFA programs for 2024 to help you choose the right program for you. 

Salary

 $113,214/yr or $54/hr, per ZipRecruiter

Program Length

6 months - 2 years

Requirements

 RN license, BSN, 2 years of experience, and CNOR certification

 

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

RNFA Program Requirements

Nurses who wish to become an RNFA typically must earn a minimum of two years of perioperative experience to learn surgical procedures, techniques, and anatomy before being accepted into an RNFA program.  However, some programs accept RNs with no perioperative experience. It is essential that RNFA students attend a program that follows AORN educational standards for RNFA programs. 

Upon graduation, RNFAs can gain experience and eventually earn certification as Certified Registered Nurse First Assistants (CRNFAs). Certification requires the nurses to have 2,000 hours of experience working with patients as an RNFA.

Top 10 RNFA Programs

1. National Institute of First Assisting

Based in Colorado, the National Institute of First Assisting (NIFA) is the nation’s most extensive RN first assistant training program for RNs and nurse practitioners (NPs) in surgery.  

This program offers three-course options depending on the depth of training each student desires:

  1. Online program (without workshops)
  2. Online RNFA program with a 3-Day SutureStar workshop
  3. Online RNFA program with a 5-Day SutureStar workshop

NIFAs program takes about 1.5 years to complete. However, many students can complete the coursework more quickly. 

2. UCLA Extension and the UCLA School of Nursing

The UCLA Extension RN First Assistant program is a 6-day course for RNs and APRNs. This program comprises 52 hours of lecture and laboratory, plus a required independent preceptorship. 

Educators for the program include practicing surgeons, clinical professionals, and perioperative nurse specialists who aim to provide students with essential RNFA knowledge and technical skills. 

This program emphasizes thorough education of principles of complex skills such as suturing, scrubbing, retracting, draping,  exposing, clamping, and ligating.

  • Application Deadline: Contact UCLA extension for application deadline information. Classes are typically offered in spring.
  • Tuition: $5,600
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 310-825-7093
  • Email Information: humsci@uclaextension.edu

3. The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing

To best RNFA programs accommodate the needs of the nursing workforce, UABM offers RNFA  courses in a distance-accessible format that combines online classes with on-campus intensives. This hybrid program allows students to participate in hands-on laboratory and simulation experiences to learn essential RNFA skill sets.

  • Application Deadline: May 1, 2023, for fall admission. Admission is limited to fall entry.
  • Tuition: $682/credit
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 205-451-8179twhite220@uab.edu
  • Email Information: twhite220@uab.edu

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

4. Gulf Coast State College

This RNFA program in Panama City, Florida, prepares RNs to assist the surgeon during surgery.  It is the only RNFA program in the state of Florida and meets all ARON and NASC requirements for its core curriculum.

The program consists of 9 college credits (3 classes). Upon successful completion of all courses with a C or better, students earn an advanced technical certificate (ATC). Students who are CNOR certified or are CNOR eligible can submit their CNOR certification for external credit for the first class.

  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Tuition: 
    • In-state: 296.25/per credit
    • Out-of-state: 1,079.13/per credit
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 850-873-3551
  • Email Information: lmcnaron@gulfcoast.edu

5. University of Massachusetts Worcester

The University of Rochester's RNFA program consists of two graduate courses (three credits each)

  • A theory-based course that emphasizes the hands-on component of the weekly online modules
  • Simulation exercises to teach sterile technique,  learn about surgical instrumentation, and understand the elements of chole laparoscopy  
  • The last live class provides a suturing workshop.

Students are also required to complete 270 hours with their assigned preceptors. 

  • Application Deadline: Contact the university for registration openings and  application deadline information 
  • Tuition: 
    • In -state: $825/ per credit
    • Out-of-state: $1128/per credit
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 508-856-3488
  • Email Information: Diane.Brescia@umassmed.edu

6. University of Rochester, School of Nursing

The University of Rochester offers a five-week intensive course with weekly online sessions. The course also encompasses online learning activities, active discussion boards, and other resources and activities.

This course also includes an in-person simulation and lab day where students work in small groups to learn:

  • Instrumentation identification and usage
  • Suture skills
  • Scrubbing, gloving, and gowning
  • Robotic surgery simulation
  • Laparoscopic simulation

Students are required to complete a 200-hour clinical internship with a board-certified preceptor. Fifty hours of this internship can be pre-or post-operative. The remainder must be intra-operative.

This course is for students who already hold a degree in nursing. 

  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Tuition: approx. $4,000 for the program, per the university website
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 585-275-0446
  • Email Information: SONCLL@urmc.rochester.edu

7. University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing

The RNFA course requirements in this program include completion of three classes, including:

  • Surgical Techniques - online
  • Advanced Perioperative Nursing 1 (online)
  • Advanced Perioperative Nursing 2

Students must also complete one week (40 hours) of on-campus simulation workshops offered during the Fall term. In addition, students must have 180 clinical hours of perioperative preceptorship with a board-certified surgeon.

  • Application Deadline: Contact the university for more information
  • Tuition: 
    • In-State: $4,195.50
    • Out-of-state: $4,429.50
  • Accreditation: According to the university's website, the UTHSC RNFA program meets AORN educational standards and is recognized by NASC as an acceptable program for the CRNFA examination.
  • Contact Phone Number: 901-448-6139
  • Email Information: gblackar@uthsc.edu

8. St. Elizabeth Healthcare/Northern Kentucky University

The program, located in Edgewood, KY, consists of two courses:

  1. A five-day intensive face-to-face experience
  2. A clinical internship

The five-day course combines classroom instruction, emphasizing surgical anatomy and procedures, with laboratory experience specific to the role of the RNFA - tissue handling, providing exposure, suturing techniques, and instrument handling. 

The clinical internship requires 130 hours of direct intraoperative care under the supervision of a surgeon preceptor. 

  • Application Deadline: Contact the program for application deadline details
  • Tuition: 
    • In-State: $2,478
    • Out-of-state: $4,968 
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 859-301-5972
  • Email Information: susan.garrett@stelizabeth.com

9. St. Charles Community College

Students earn six credit hours upon completing the St. Charles Community College RNFA  course:

  • Three credits through classroom/theory coursework
  •  Three hours through an approved internship program

Internships must be a minimum of 120 hours. St. Charles Community College only accepts students with a BSN.

  • Application Deadline: Contact the RNFA coordinator for more information 
  • Tuition: 
    • In-state: $1,314 
    • Out-of-state: $2,304
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 636-922-8284
  • Email Information: healthoccupations@stchas.edu

10. Delaware County Community College

Delaware County Community College offers a six-credit RNFA certificate program for perioperative registered nurses. 

This hybrid long-distance learning program includes a five-day session at the College's Marple Campus. The faculty includes a board-certified surgeon and master's prepared certified nurses with experience in perioperative nursing and first assisting. 

  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Tuition: 
    • In-state: $260/per credit
    • Out-of-state: $390/per credit
  • Accreditation:  This program meets AORN Standards for RN First Assistant Education Programs
  • Contact Phone Number: 610-359-5286
  • Email Information: jbak1@dccc.edu

Types of RNFA Programs

Online RNFA Programs

Most RNFA programs include some portion of online coursework that does not require in-person learning. 

In-Person RNFA Programs 

In-person clinical training is a requirement for RNFA programs to obtain clinical learning experience. Internships are typically precepted with a board-certified medical surgeon or RNFA with several years of hands-on experience. 

Accelerated RNFA Programs

Most RNFA programs are completable in under two years. However, students who wish to complete their education and training more quickly can often do so in as little as one year or less, depending on the program.

FAQs

Should I Choose an Accredited RNFA Program?

It is essential that RNFA students attend a program that follows AORN educational standards for RNFA programs per the AORN website.

Are There RNFA Programs Available Online?

Most RNFA programs include some portion of online coursework that does not require in-person learning. However, in-person clinical training is a requirement for RNFA programs to obtain clinical learning experience. 

How Much Can You Make as an RNFA?

ZipRecruiter reports that RNFAs earn a median annual income of $113,214 or $54/hr in the US. They also state that some RNFA’s are earning as much as $197,000 annually. RNFA salaries across the country vary widely depending on the location, type of healthcare facility, and whether you work full-time or part-time. 

What Classes are in an RNFA Program?

RNFA program classes can vary. However, per AORN, RNFA programs must have a minimum of six semester credit hours of formal, post-RN education. 

RNFA programs also must include a didactic component specific to RNFA competencies, including:

  • Perioperative management, including preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative patient management
  • Intraoperative surgical-first assisting techniques, including:
    • Using instruments and medical devices,
    • Providing surgical site exposure
    • Handling and cutting tissue
    • Managing blood loss
    • Suturing and wound management

Programs must also have a clinical component with a preceptor with an equivalency of a minimum of 3 semester credit hours

How Do You Pay for an RNFA Program?

RNFA programs can be expensive. However, their return on investment provides RNs with additional skills and education to obtain additional and often higher-paying career opportunities. Students who cannot pay for their education on the front end may apply for one of the two main student loan types: a federal loan or a private loan.

How Hard is an RNFA Program?

RNFA programs are challenging and intensive programs designed to teach nurses how to assist a board-certified surgeon during surgical procedures. Like all RN programs, successful completion of an RNFA program takes great determination, hard work, and high clinical competency for graduation eligibility. 

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Sarah Jividen
RN, BSN
Sarah Jividen
Nurse.org Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

Read More From Sarah
Go to the top of page