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Introducing our founding associate members

13 Jun 2018


In April this year, the Royal College of Surgeons opened its doors to members of the surgical care team. This new initiative allows those with roles such as physician associate to access a wide range of resources and development opportunities through the RCS. Matthew Smith and Starlene Grandy-Smith, a married couple living in London, are two of the founding members of our new associate membership category. Here, they explain why they joined the RCS and how this new membership category will help support other members of the surgical care team.

Matthew Smith

I first started training as a Registered Operating Department Practitioner (RODP) in 1995 at the University of Surrey. I continued to work in this role until I saw that there was a lack of qualified Surgical Assistants within the operating department, with staff doing “dual roles”, acting as scrub practitioner and assisting with the operation at the same time.

I started my training as a Surgical Assistant in 2009 at the University Of Greenwich, after witnessing gaps in patient care. My training was split between attending university for theory-based learning and practice within the operating room, beside a supervising surgeon. In order to qualify, I had to complete a set number of assisting hours and a set number of practical and theory assessments, which were signed off by my supervising surgeon. The final step to qualification was to present a research project. After qualifying, I completed the Royal College of Surgeons’ Surgical Skills Course, which was my first experience with the college.

My role involves acting as a Surgical Assistant within the operating theatre in trauma and orthopaedic cases, which includes prepping the patient for surgery, retraction of tissues and organs, assisting with haemostasis (stopping bleeding) and the closure of wounds. I also see patients pre and post-op on the wards and collect data for audit and research. My role helps the surgical team as I liaise between patients, surgeons and theatre staff, which helps to improve the patient’s journey through the operating process. The role also allows me to help with the training of junior doctors within the surgical team.

I’ve now worked for the NHS for over 20 years. I’m currently the only Surgical First Assistant in my department and hospital, working within trauma and orthopaedics at Croydon University Hospital NHS Trust in London. 

It is a huge honour and privilege to be the first founding registered associate member of such a respected organisation as the Royal College of Surgeons. I hope other Surgical First Assistants will become members and our medical colleagues will provide continued support in our roles as associate members. It is also an exciting time for Operating Department Practitioners who are trained Surgical First Assistants to embrace this opportunity, I am very much looking forward to working with the Royal College of Surgeons in moving the Surgical First Assistant role forward.


Starlene Grandy-Smith

I currently work at King’s College NHS Trust in London as a Registered Nurse Practitioner. I am also the Lead Bariatric Nurse specialist and Lead Laparoscopic Nurse for Upper GI and Minimally Invasive Surgery. My time is split between nurse-led clinics and assisting in the operating theatre.

I began my training in Canada in 1991 where I worked in surgery in Calgary, Alberta. In 1997, I moved to the UK and completed the “First Assistant to the Surgeon” course at the University of Greenwich, which is now obsolete. I also completed a minor surgery skills course and the Key Instruction in Surgical Skills Course (KISS) before qualifying as a Surgical Care Practitioner in 2007. When I started in this role, there was a general acceptance of “dual roles” from surgeons and surgical staff. The lack of skilled and appropriately trained assistance from non-medical staff demonstrated that there was a real need to examine what theatre practitioners were doing in theatre, and what they were actually trained and indemnified to do. Today, I am a qualified Independent Nurse Prescriber and currently working towards the completion of a Master’s Degree.

My role within theatre involves assisting a consultant surgeon with minimally invasive procedures including bariatric and general procedures. I assist with positioning, prepping and draping, which is the process of creating and maintaining a sterile barrier around the patient during a surgical procedure. I retract, assist with haemostasis and close wounds. Outside the operating theatre, I manage a nurse-led clinic where I typically see patients before surgery, at surgical follow-ups and perform band adjustments. My role also involves teaching staff at dedicated education days and I am involved with data collection for audit research purposes.

I was thrilled at this opportunity for non-medical professionals working in this extended role. It is an honour to receive this associate membership as one of the founding members as it highlights not only the extension and experience of the role but the collaboration with our surgical colleagues. It is also an opportunity to help shape the future and education of Surgical First Assistants by this professional body who will no doubt support this role inside and out of the operating theatre.


Find out how you can become an Associate Member and help to advance surgical care.


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