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Surgical First Assistant Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Darby Faubion
| Darby Faubion has been a Nurse and Allied Health Educator for over twenty years. She has clinical experience in several specialty areas including pediatrics, medical-surgical, critical care, and hospice.

Question 1 of 30

Have you ever been yelled at by a surgeon, and if so, how did you or how would you handle that situation?

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Surgical First Assistant Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Have you ever been yelled at by a surgeon, and if so, how did you or how would you handle that situation?

      Operating rooms can be very stressful places to work, especially during a critical case. Stressful situations sometimes bring out the worst in people, even doctors. The interviewer is looking for evidence that you are able to handle a stressful situation without contributing to it and causing the situation to escalate. This is important in any setting, but especially in a healthcare setting, such as a surgery room.

      Darby's Answer

      "I have only been yelled at by a physician once. It was not a surgeon, but a staff doctor who was overseeing some residents in a facility where I was doing my clinical rotation. I was quite embarrassed, and I must admit, it made me angry. However, I did hold my composure enough to firmly, but respectfully, tell him that I was there to work and not be yelled at. I asked him to lower his voice and talk to me with the same respect that I gave him. He looked a bit shocked, but he did calm down and later apologized."

      Darby's Answer

      "I've not yet had the displeasure of being yelled at by a surgeon. I know that working in surgery can be a very stressful area, but I try to treat others with respect and appreciate the same. If a surgeon were to yell at me, I would like to think that I could speak calmly and ask him to allow me to be of assistance so that we can focus on the care of our patient, which should be our common goal."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Of course I have. I was not assisting in a manner that the surgeon preferred, and he yelled at me about it. I apologized and asked for help. The OR can be stressful, soI find it is not good practice to take things said during a case personally."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's terrific that you take this situation in stride and consider the environment vs. making it personal. Being yelled at could crush the average person; however, it's clear that you have the grit required to succeed in a high-stakes surgical environment.

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  2. 2.

    If you were scheduled to assist with a surgery, but had reason to believe that the surgeon was impaired and may be unsafe to perform surgery, what would you do?

      Unfortunately, scenarios like this do happen in real life. The interviewer is not trying to trick you into being the bad guy, but rather wants to know that you are able to prioritize your patient's health over the feelings of a surgeon who is possibly impaired.

      Darby's Answer

      "Patient safety should always be the first thought for any of us providing care. If I were to suspect that a surgeon is impaired in any way, I would immediately notify my supervisor with my concern. Even if it is found that the surgeon is well and can perform the surgery, it is always better to err on the side of caution when patient care is a factor. We all are responsible for protecting a patient's safety."

      Darby's Answer

      "If I thought that a surgeon was impaired, I would ask if he is feeling well or if he is ok. If after talking to him I still felt like there was some reason that the surgeon may not be able to safely perform a procedure, I would immediately tell my supervisor. Overlooking something so as not to offend a co-worker, even someone with a higher rank than I, is something that I can be held accountable for, as well."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I would inform my supervisor of my concern right away. The safety of the patient comes first."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's great that you have the confidence to do what is right, even if it meant going to the supervisor to discuss a colleagues' behavior. Good answer.

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  3. 3.

    What sets you apart from other surgical first assistants, and why are you the best candidate for this job?

      In most cases, more than one candidate is interviewed for a position before an offer of employment is made. This is your chance to tell the interviewer what makes you a better choice. However, remember that being confident and being conceited have a fine line of separation. Highlight your strengths, but remember to be humble.

      Darby's Answer

      "I believe my dedication to my studies and the compassion that I have for others is something that will make me an asset if I am given the opportunity to work here. I look forward to being able to become a part of a team and becoming an asset to the teamwork that needs to be accomplished."

      Darby's Answer

      "I am passionate about learning more about laboratory technology and want to work in a place where I can stay for the long-term and become a strong part of a team. I believe my history of dependability and my drive to work hard will make me a great candidate for this position."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "My connection to the patient population makes my passion for the speciality is unmatched. I want to be a part of the life-altering procedures that are performed through Crane. I want to be a valuable asset to the team, and I will do that by working hard to hone my skills. I am also interested in research, and I believe that could be accomplished here."

      Rachelle's Answer

      You are passionate about your work, no doubt :) In this instance, it feels like you are answering a question more like, 'Why do you want to work here?' vs 'Why are you the best candidate?' When positioning yourself as the top candidate, I recommend focusing more on what you will offer the hiring company. I have a guide that touches on this topic and the idea of * What's in it for them * if they hire you. It's a crucial position to take when approaching this question. You can find the guide here: https://www.mockquestions.com/articles/How to Answer: Why Should We Hire You?/

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  4. 4.

    Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a coworker and how it was resolved.

      Any time you work with someone else, there is a chance of having a disagreement about something at one time or another. The interviewer knows this. It's human nature for people to have their own opinions. What is important to the interviewer in this question is whether or not you are willing to compromise and work through difficult situations with your co-workers. Being unwilling to compromise or find alternative solutions to a dispute can affect everyone on the team, even if it is indirectly. Sharing a personal experience is OK, but do not embellish it to 'be the hero.'

      Darby's Answer

      "I believe if we think about it, each of us could remember at least one disagreement with a friend or co-worker. Although I consider myself to be pretty easy-going, I am also very passionate about my patients and the care that they receive. I have been aware of disagreements between other co-workers, but really like to think of myself as more of a peacekeeper. I feel like professional people should be able to discuss things logically and come to an agreement that is satisfactory for everyone involved."

      Darby's Answer

      "I am a pretty easy-going person and do my best to avoid conflict. Like anyone else, I am sure there have been times that a co-worker and I have had a difference of opinion. But, there has never been an instance that the disagreement was something that would have interfered with my work."

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  5. 5.

    What is one of your biggest weaknesses and what are you doing to improve in that area?

      This is probably one of the most dreaded questions in a job interview. Answering this question requires self-evaluation and honesty. Remember, whatever weakness you decide to share, make sure it is not a key characteristic needed to perform your job as a blood bank lab technician.

      Darby's Answer

      "I think one of my biggest weaknesses is that I can get sidetracked easily. I recognize that in myself and have made a conscious effort to plan my day as much as possible and to stay on target."

      Darby's Answer

      "One of my weaknesses is that I often get nervous around people I don't know. I know we all do that to a certain degree, but for me, it has become something that I am aware of. I now try to attend social activities where I know there are going to be opportunities to meet new people so that I can overcome social anxiety."

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  6. 6.

    What are some of the first things you'd like to accomplish if you are offered this position?

      The way you answer this question could be potentially hazardous if you aren't careful. Of course, you don't want to be a slacker and say that you want to know where the break room is and check what your days off are going to be. Also, going in the completely opposite direction by stating changes you intend to make within the department could be a bad move, too. This is a time to focus on how you will fit into the company and department you are joining. So, the answer to this question should start with taking some time to learn culture and practices.

      Darby's Answer

      "At first, I'd really like to get to know the team I will be working with and find out how I can become an asset to them. I am very interested to learn about the company, as a whole, and see if any of my past experience would be something that management would like to utilize as we work together to make this company the first choice for patients."

      Darby's Answer

      "I am new to this profession and think it would be beneficial for me to get to know the surgical team I will be working with and learn from them. I would like to set some goals with my supervisor regarding things that he feels I should accomplish by a certain time."

      Anonymous Answer

      "I would be in on as many cases as possible and practice to obtain a skill level commensurate with what one would expect from a first assist. I want to get to know the staff and the OR team and see how they work. In my training, I found them invaluable; they always had tips for me, which helped me produce clear questions. Finally, I would like to have some benchmarks or goals set forth by the surgeons and myself."

      Rachelle's Answer

      You have some nice targets in mind, and your response shows that you are looking ahead into this role and the wonderful goals you can accomplish. What will your approach be for getting to know the team and OR staff and how they work? Regarding the benchmarks and goals you mention, are you able to be more specific?

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  7. 7.

    If you suspected a team member of having a hangover or being under the influence of other substances, what would your response be?

      When faced with a situation where a co-worker may be affected by drugs or alcohol, it is important to remember that, patient safety is your responsibility. The interviewer wants to know that you take your job of protecting patients seriously, even if it means having to report a peer. If you have questions, it is always best to consult a supervisor, rather than leaving something questionable unaddressed and then having a patient injured.

      Darby's Answer

      "No one wants to be faced with a situation like this, but my patients are my responsibility. If I were to suspect a team member of being incapacitated at all, I would address my concerns with my supervisor immediately."

      Darby's Answer

      "I have never experienced anything like this, but if I did suspect a co-worker of drinking or using substances that made them appear unsafe, I would ask to speak privately with my supervisor and disclose my suspicions. It is always better to err on the side of caution and protect a patient than to overlook a potentially dangerous situation because you don't want a friend or co-worker to get into trouble."

      Anonymous Answer

      "Unfortunately, I have had this experience. My response was to inform the unit supervisor and our immediate supervisor. I would respond exactly the same and inform supervision. I would not confront the team member, but allow the supervisory team to address the situation."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's unfortunate that you have faced this situation before; however, it's clear that you handled the situation with poise and professionalism. Your answer is solid and shows confidence.

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  8. 8.

    What is an example of one of the most difficult cases you have ever worked?

      The interviewer understands that every surgery is not an elective procedure and may be a more difficult situation than others. When you are asked a question like this during an interview, it is not necessarily because the interviewer wants to hear a story of a difficult time, but more likely that he is trying to see how well you cope with difficult situations. As always, remember to protect patient confidentiality when giving an answer.

      Darby's Answer

      "The most difficult case I ever worked was the surgery of a 14 yr old boy who had been in an automobile accident. The driver of the car that hit him was drunk. The boy lost his leg and the other driver walked away with only a few cuts and bruises. It was a devastating event."

      Darby's Answer

      "

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      Anonymous Answer

      "While working in Pediatric Neurosurgery I observed a case where they discovered a large tumor that they were not going to be able to remove. That hit everyone present pretty hard, myself included."

      Rachelle's Answer

      I can only imagine this would have been incredibly hard to handle. In your answer, it would be best if you could include details on how you managed your emotions during this time.

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  9. 9.

    Working in a surgical setting is often very stressful. What are some ways that you prepare yourself for potentially stressful situations?

      The interviewer acknowledges the potential for stress in your job as a surgical first assistant. However, the question also shows that the interviewer expects you to be able to recognize and prepare for potentially stressful situations. Not everyone is 100% calm 100% of the time, but being able to recognize things that may cause tension or stress and having ways to help yourself deal is important, no matter what job you have.

      Darby's Answer

      "Exercise is a big stress reliever. I like to work out a few times each week to help me release some of the tension that may be building up, even when I'm not aware of it. Also, if I feel like I am starting to feel tense or overwhelmed, I always make sure to talk with a co-worker or supervisor and make sure I don't try to shoulder everything myself."

      Darby's Answer

      "I believe no matter what job we choose, there is always the potential for one day to be more stressful than another. I like to look at my schedule each morning and get a mental list of what cases we have scheduled so I can prepare myself for what my day should be like, without any emergencies. Taking little steps like that to prepare for the day helps me prevent feeling overwhelmed, which can occur from being ill-prepared."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I have a morning routine that involves meditation, breathwork, and journaling. I also exercise 4-5 times per week. These are the crucial tools I use to deal with stress."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Excellent stress-management mechanisms. Your answer shows that you value self-care and wellness - good work!

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  10. 10.

    Do you feel like you have strong relationship building skills?

      Building strong relationships is essential for the success of any business. The healthcare industry is no exception, especially in concentrated areas like surgery, where most days you work with the same people. Share why you think you have good relationship building skills.

      Darby's Answer

      "I have often been complimented on my relationship building skills. I like to get to know people and ask them questions about themselves; I find it's a great and simple way to start building rapport with others. I consider myself to be a strong relationship builder and take pride in my 'people skills'."

      Darby's Answer

      "I do feel like I have good relationship building skills. I like people and enjoy getting to know them."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Without a doubt. Not much is better than having a strong connection with your coworkers and the feeling of being a team. I enjoy getting to know people and sharing about myself, as well. I believe this helps to identify strengths and weaknesses of your team members, which is crucial ."

      Rachelle's Answer

      You show a great amount of confidence, and you bring up some excellent points regarding the importance of relationship building. Nice answer!

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  11. 11.

    How do you approach dealing with an angry patient, and why?

      Knowing how you will handle a difficult situation will tell the interviewer if you have the right attitude for this job. Being a physician means you have to deal with people from very different backgrounds and with varying personalities. Give the interviewer an example of how you would handle an angry patient.

      Darby's Answer

      "I believe acting calmly and speaking rationally is a great way to calm someone who is angry and I try to be the voice of reason without making someone feel that I am belittling them."

      Darby's Answer

      "I think it is important to try and find out what has made the patient mad. If it is something such as not being called as quickly as he had expected, a simple explanation regarding what caused the delay may help calm him."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Undergoing a procedure is usually due to an illness. Most anger is based on fear, so it is important first to recognize that and to understand that the patient is not angry with me personally and to engage with them without being defensive. A calm response based on empathy generally works best for me."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Your approach sounds excellent and very caring! If you have an example of a time when you used this approach to help settle an angry patient, this question presents a good opportunity to weave in a memorable story.

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  12. 12.

    Working in surgery requires a great deal of attention to detail and often multi-tasking. What do you do to help keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed?

      Managing the care of a patient in a surgical setting requires the ability to multitask and ensure all details are checked and double-checked. In a surgical first assistant interview, discuss your understanding of the importance of maintaining detailed records, performing multiple assessments and handling instruments and performing procedures efficiently and accurately.

      Darby's Answer

      "I am very detail-oriented. One of my strengths as a surgical first assistant is to manage multiple medical tasks with the highest degree of excellence."

      Darby's Answer

      "I have learned to recognize the things that may cause me to feel overwhelmed and try to address them before a situation gets out of hand. For example, I always like to make sure that all physician orders are clear before I begin a shift and report anything that seems to be out of order or any changes in patient status as they occur. Attention to detail, such as these examples, helps my team be sure that a patient is stable enough to go into surgery. Also, this keeps things from piling up and leaving me to feel overwhelmed later on."

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  13. 13.

    There are many different personalities among peers and coworkers. What would you like for people to notice about your personality?

      Your personality speaks volumes about who you are. We are often our own worst critics. This question gives the interviewer an opportunity to get to know you on your own terms, so to speak. Share what qualities you think your personality portrays, but remember to be honest. Actions speak louder than words and, if hired, you will be expected to portray the attributes you have discussed.

      Darby's Answer

      "I would like to think that people who meet feel that I am kind and very easy to get along with. Life has enough stress without us creating any more of it unnecessarily. With that in mind, I try to be the peacekeeper. I like to work hard and lend a hand whenever possible."

      Darby's Answer

      "I would like for people to notice that I am approachable and easy to get to know. I tend to be shy at times and some people mistake that for me not being friendly. Given a little time to really get to know me, though, I believe anyone can tell that I am very friendly and enjoy getting to know others."

  14. 14.

    What makes you feel you will be a good fit for our organization?

      Rather than just sharing how you have gone above and beyond expectations in the past, focus on how your qualities will help you meet and exceed expectations with their organization. Discuss the reasons why will you be great at this job. Talk about your qualifications and skills that will help you to do this job well. If you can, match your strengths to the requirements outlined in the job description.

      Darby's Answer

      "I know I will be successful in this role because I have been working in this industry for five years with great training and mentorship. I have a solid understanding of X, Y, and Z (skills listed in the job description). Also, I have all of my updated certifications as outlined in your job description. I am well-prepared for this next step in my career."

      Darby's Answer

      "Entry Level: "I feel I have the education and skills necessary to become an asset to your organization and I believe, given the opportunity, I can prove that."

      View answer examples for this question >

  15. 15.

    What is your greatest fear about being a surgical first assistant?

      We all have things that make us feel afraid from time to time. Recognizing them is the first step in overcoming them. This question is an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you on a personal level. Being willing to talk openly to someone about things like this shows your softer side, which is important when you are trying to build a good rapport during an interview.

      Darby's Answer

      "My greatest fear about being a surgical first assistant is that I am not learning and growing fast enough to save more people. I know that we can't heal or save everyone, but I want to give everything that I can to those who trust me with their care."

      Darby's Answer

      "I think we all fear something on one level or another. For me, I fear that I may miss something when I am caring for a patient. I always want to go home at the end of my day knowing that I gave everything I could to improve the life of someone else."

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  16. 16.

    Would you ever consider relocation? If so, what areas are you open to?

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  17. 17.

    Tell me about a time that there was an unexpected emergency at work. How did you handle the situation?

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  18. 18.

    Talk about a time that you had to deal with a significant change in your work procedures or in your workplace. How did you handle that change?

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  19. 19.

    Have you ever considered going to back to school to get a higher degree or to change career paths?

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  20. 20.

    Have you ever felt it necessary to go to someone who is higher in the chain of command than your immediate supervisor to resolve or report an issue?

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  21. 21.

    What are some aspects of your specialty that make it unique compared to other specialties?

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  22. 22.

    Why did you choose a career as a surgical first assistant?

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  23. 23.

    Many healthcare workers report experiencing 'burn out' at some point in their careers. What do you do to help prevent this in your life?

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  24. 24.

    What kind of coworkers do you find difficult to work with?

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  25. 25.

    What is something about you that most people may not know?

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  26. 26.

    How would you handle a situation if a family member was angry because of a poor surgical outcome regarding their loved one?

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  27. 27.

    Has there ever been a time that you felt you should not participate in a specific surgery? If so, how did you handle the situation?

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  28. 28.

    Give me an example of an interesting surgical case that you assisted with.

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  29. 29.

    If you were working a case where a patient had signed consent, but just before being sedated, he stated to you that he doesn't think he wants the surgery, what would your response be?

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  30. 30.

    What do you dislike most about being a surgical first assistant?

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