RNFA Program (RN First Assistant)

Prepare to practice as an RNFA with the University of Rochester's RNFA Program

The RN First Assistant program prepares CNORs to take on an expanded role and empowers APRNs to follow their surgical patients throughout the perioperative experience.

This course will provide you with an in-depth look at the essential elements of RN First Assistant practice, including scope of practice, the nursing process as a foundation for practice, communication, and operating room safety. You will gain clinical skills including:

  • use of surgical instruments
  • tissue handling and wound healing
  • surgical procedures
  • management of perioperative complications

RNFA Program Details

The course is a five-week intensive course with weekly online synchronous sessions where you can meet with your instructors and guest speakers and conduct interactive, asynchronous online learning activities (videos, active discussion boards, activities and readings and resources).

We have been able to harness the expertise of our surgeons, RNFAs, NPs, OR nurses and wound care/infection prevention specialists to provide a complete and thorough education based on the five modules of the AORN curriculum.

This combination of learning methods allows your schedule to be flexible, while utilizing best online learning practices and enabling connection between learners, instructors, and experts.

This will be followed by an in-person simulation and lab day in which students will be separated into small groups and rotate among the following activities:

  • suture skill development
  • scrubbing, gowning, and gloving
  • instrumentation identification and handling
  • robotic surgery simulation
  • laparoscopic simulation

Once the lecture and skills portion of the class are completed, along with clinical onboarding and site approval, you will complete a 200 hour clinical internship with a board-certified preceptor of your choice, which will require a Clinical Placement Agreement with the clinical site and a Surgeon Letter of CommitmentFifty hours of this internship can be pre- or post-operative, the remainder must be intra-operative.

This course is designed for students who already hold a degree in nursing. It is based on the guidelines set forth by the Association of Peri-Operative Registered Nurses (AORN) and is an acceptable program for CRNFA or RNAS-C eligibility with the National Assistant at Surgery Certification (NASC)

It is approved for 6 graduate level credits. 

How to Apply to the RNFA program

To secure your spot in the next RN First Assistant course session, please begin the online application process as soon as possible. You will be able to save and come back to your application as you submit various materials.

Apply Online

Program Eligibility Requirements

  • Current US or Canadian RN license in same state or province in which the clinical internship will be undertaken
  • Bachelor's degree
  • eligibility for CNOR or APRN certification

Application Materials

  • US or Canadian RN license
  • CNOR or APRN (NP, Nurse Midwife, Nurse Anesthetists) certification, required upon admission or, if in progress, before the end of the course
  • Diploma or unofficial transcript
  • CV or resume
  • CPR Certification (BCLS or ACLS)
  • Two letters of recommendation from an OR manager, surgeon, or nursing peer
  • Information for a Clinical Placement Agreement. See details about the Clinical Placement Agreement process
  • Board-certified Surgeon Letter of Commitment. See requirements for Surgeon Letter of Commitment.
Program Duration


2-3 semesters

(depending on practicum schedule)

Upcoming Course Sessions

Fall 2022
5-Week Online Course (Oct. 3 to Nov. 6)
Simulation Day (In-person on Saturday, Nov. 19)

Spring 2023
5-Week Online Course (Feb. 6 to March 12)
Simulation Day (In-person on Saturday, March 18)*

Summer 2023
5-Week Online Course (June 5 to July 9) 
Simulation Day (In-person on Saturday, July 22)* 

*dates subject to change

Application Deadlines
The RN First Assistant Program is offered each year in June, September, and February. Preference is given to those who already have a placement agreement and those who already have CNOR/NP certification.
  • For Summer Class Session: March 15 ($50 fee)
  • For Fall Class Session: July 15 ($50 fee)
  • For Spring Class Session: Nov. 15 ($50 fee)

Program Costs

The cost of the RN First Assistant Course is:
    • $4,000


Julius Cheng
Professor, Department of Surgery & Pediatrics
Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Julius Cheng is certified by the American Board of Surgery. He is a member of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American Medical Association.
Marialaina Chennell
Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing
Donna Steo, MS, RN, CNOR
Instructor of Clinical Nursing

What You Can Do as an RNFA

Upon completing the RN First Assistant Program from the UR School of Nursing, you’ll be prepared take on nursing roles in a variety of ways:

Work for the operating room of a hospital
Work directly with one physician or a physician group
Work for yourself