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RNFA Certificate

New Certificate Course 

Nurses who are looking to expand their role in the operating room may consider becoming a Registered Nurse First Assistant. Nurses with perioperative experience are primed to work as First Assistant in operating rooms. Skills required for the First Assistant role include, but are not limited to, suturing, retracting and positioning.

The need for surgical assistance in the operating room has grown exponentially over the past decade due to increased cases, the building of more outpatient surgery centers, and a growing demand for minimally invasive surgeries such as robotic surgery.

As the need has shifted, so has the programming needs to complete the CRNFA profile. The School of Nursing is answering that call and has hired RNFA veteran Todd Farlow, RN, BSN, CNOR, CRNFA, to develop and facilitate the certificate program. The program includes one semester of in person and online modules along with hands on training in class with suture/knot tying and wound care study.

Farlow has worked with AORN and physicians to put together a high-quality program. “Nurses with two years perioperative experience and are CNOR are in an ideal position to become an RNFA,” said Farlow. “It can be a high stress environment, but with the right education and training, it is also very rewarding.” “I never get bored with my job working as an RNFA.  Every day I work with a different surgeon and specialty which keeps me on my toes mentally and physically.”

Registered nurses who have experience in perioperative services as well as ANP’s are eligible and well suited for this role. In response to this growing need, the School of Nursing has developed a Registered Nurse First Assistant Certificate program that begin in January 2022. Following national standards, this program will include 99 hours didactic/ online study during one semester with hands on practice and study of suturing/ knot tying in Oakland University's labs housed in the Human Health Building; all of which are guided by AORN standards of perioperative nursing.

After completing our program and completing the required 120 hours of clinical, the RN will be able to function as an RNFA in Orthopedic, Neuro spine: plastics (cosmetic); vascular and robotic procedures including OB/Gyn, urology and general surgical procedures. With these skills, the RNFA will be able to provide safe care for all surgical patients.

Nurses interested in pursuing RNFA certificate must have:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN),
  • current RN licensure 
  • CNOR-certified nurse of the OR – If not-must earn CNOR prior to earning the certificate.
  • BLS certification/ACLS
  • AVP are not required to be CNOR
  • Must have current active Nursing License
  • BLS or ACLS

Students will be able to:

  • Describe factors controlling scope of practice and procedures for obtaining privileges and practicing
  • Identify surgical anatomy, physiology, and implications for the RNFA for multi-specialty surgical procedures
  • Relate principles of asepsis, infection control, and wound healing to the practice
  • Recognize surgical hazards and implement appropriate techniques to prevent patient injury and achieve optimal surgical outcome
  • Integrate perioperative nursing and first assisting knowledge with demonstrable RNFA skills and behaviors, appropriate for surgical interventions
  • Utilize the nursing process for the foundation of practice
  • Demonstrate best practices
  • Articulate communication skills that are used throughout the perioperative period to facilitate optimal patient outcomes
  • Apply fundamentals for perioperative practice including prepping, draping, gowning, gloving, and specimen handling


About the Instructor: Todd Farlow, BSN, RN, CRNFA
Todd began his nursing career as a staff nurse on an internal medicine unit at Providence Hospital and shortly transferred to the operating room and where he has been practicing ever since. In 1999, he became certified in the operating room (CNOR) and as an RN First Assistant. Todd has extensive training and experience in cardiovascular and plastic surgery with over 10,000 hours as a CRNFA (Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant) at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI. He has over 20,000 hours as a CRNFA at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Pontiac, MI. In the past 22 years, Todd has been successfully performing endoscopic vein harvesting (EVH) with over 2,000 cases to date.

If you have any questions regarding the certificate program, please contact Jennifer Cepnick at [email protected], Dr. Patricia Cameron at [email protected] or Todd Farlow at [email protected].

Cost for the Program:

In aligning with Oakland University's strategic goals to include affordable and quality professional development options, to increase community engagement, improve the student experience, and build community partnerships, the School of Nursing offers a discounted option for hospitals and health care agencies who have more than one nurse complete the course. To discuss multiple participant pricing, please contact Jennifer Cepnick at [email protected].

Learn more about pricing or how to register.